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.

When Is Speech Violence?

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | July 14, 2017

Imagine that a bully threatens to punch you in the face. A week later, he walks up to you and breaks your nose with his fist. Which is more harmful: the punch or the threat?

The answer might seem obvious: Physical violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

But scientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sickalter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life. Continue reading »

The Relations of Age and Pubertal Development with Cortisol and Daily Stress in Youth at Clinical Risk for Psychosis

By Danielle M. Moskow, Jean Addington, Carrie E. Bearden, Kristin S. Cadenhead, Barbara A. Cornblatt, Robert Heinssen, Daniel H. Mathalon, Thomas H. McGlashan, Diana O. Perkins, Larry J. Seidman, Ming T. Tsuang, Tyrone D. Cannon, Scott W. Woods, and Elaine F. Walker | Schizophrenia Research | February 20, 2016



Prodromal syndromes often begin in adolescence — a period of neurodevelopmental changes and heightened stress sensitivity. Research has shown elevated stress and cortisol in individuals at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis. This cross-sectional study examined relations of age and pubertal status with cortisol and self-reported stress in healthy controls (HCs) and CHR adolescents. It was hypothesized that the relations of age and pubertal stage with cortisol and stress would be more pronounced in CHR youth.


Participants were 93 HCs and 348 CHR adolescents from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS). At baseline, measures of stress (Daily Stress Inventory — DSI), Tanner stage (TS), and salivary cortisol were obtained.


ANCOVA revealed increased DSI scores with age for both groups, and higher DSI scores in CHR adolescents than HCs, with a more pronounced difference for females. Contrary to prediction, with age controlled, HCs showed greater TS-related DSI increases. Analysis of cortisol showed no significant interactions, but a main effect of age and a trend toward higher cortisol in the CHR group. Correlations of cortisol with TS were higher in HC than CHR group.


Stress measures increased with age in HC and CHR adolescents, and DSI scores also increased with TS in HCs. The results do not support a more pronounced age or TS increase in stress measures in CHR adolescents, but instead suggest that stress indices tend to be elevated earlier in adolescence in the CHR group. Potential determinants of findings and future directions are discussed.

Read the full paper here.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Prenatal Life Stress and Postpartum Depression Symptoms

By Cindy H. Liu, Rebecca Giallo, Stacey N. Doan, Larry J. Seidman, and Ed Tronick | Archives of Psychiatric Nursing | November 13, 2015


This study determined the risk of core depression symptoms based on life stress domains during pregnancy, and whether stressors varied by race/ethnicity. The sample consisted of 2,344 White, African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Massachusetts women who recently gave birth. African Americans and Hispanics who endorsed high relational and high financial stress were more likely to report high depressed mood and loss of interest; high physical stress was associated with high depressed mood among API. Screening based on life stress domains may be informative in determining risk for core depression symptoms during the postpartum period especially for minority groups.

Read the full article here.