News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Why More Scientists are Needed in the Public Square

Janet Napolitano is the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, and current president of the University of California system.

By Janet Napolitano | The Conversation | October 13, 2015

In this presidential election season, one thing is certain: candidates will rarely – if ever –

be asked what they would do to keep this nation at the forefront of science and innovation.

That’s a shame.

The public dialogue about science is perhaps the most vital and most fraught national conversation not taking place in our country, and the ramifications are profound.

Ultimately, the way we address science and innovation will determine what our children learn in school, what college graduates bring to the larger world, how public lands and natural resources are cared for and whether people receive adequate health care. And the list goes on.

As the president of one of our country’s leading research university systems, I believe it is now incumbent on the academic community to ensure that the work and voices of researchers are front and center in the public square.

Continue reading »

Courage of Conviction

By Virginia Gewin | Nature | October 15, 2015

In October 2006, Bradley Waldroup attacked his estranged wife with a machete and shot her friend to death. In the subsequent trial, his defence attorney argued that Waldroup had the ‘warrior’ gene — a genetic variant that has been linked to aggression. As a result, the defence argued, he was less able to control his behaviour than are people who do not have the variant.

Although he had been charged with first-degree murder of the friend and attempted first-degree murder of his wife, Waldroup was convicted in 2011 of voluntary manslaughter and attempted second-degree murder, and received a 32-year sentence. Had he been found guilty of the more-serious charges, he would have faced the death penalty. Waldroup’s conviction was due, at least in part, to the testimony of forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. News stories at the time quoted jurors as saying that the genetic evidence persuaded them that Waldroup could not fully control his actions. Bernet’s research had linked the genetic variant and a history of abuse during childhood—both of which Waldroup had—to an increased likelihood of violent behaviour.

The outcome outraged many in the US legal and scientific communities, who considered the genetic link much too distant to be used to establish guilt. “The leap from population studies of the ‘warrior gene’ to a single man and a single gene variant was absurd,” says Judith Edersheim, a lawyer-turned-psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. And the trial is not the only example of what she describes as “neuroscience run amok in the courtroom”. Continue reading »

Psychology Is Not in Crisis

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | September 1, 2015

IS psychology in the midst of a research crisis?

An initiative called the Reproducibility Project at the University of Virginia recently reran 100 psychology experiments and found that over 60 percent of them failed to replicate — that is, their findings did not hold up the second time around. The results, published last week in Science, have generated alarm (and in some cases, confirmed suspicions) that the field of psychology is in poor shape.

But the failure to replicate is not a cause for alarm; in fact, it is a normal part of how science works.  Continue reading »