A new article represents a major advance in understanding the interactions of rational and emotional brain regions during punishment decisions.
The work – Corticolimbic Gating of Emotion-Driven Punishment – appears in the leading neuroscience journal Nature Neuroscience.
Determining the appropriate punishment for a norm violation requires consideration of both the perpetrator’s state of mind (for example, purposeful or blameless) and the strong emotions elicited by the harm caused by their actions. It has been hypothesized that such affective responses serve as a heuristic that determines appropriate punishment. However, an actor’s mental state often trumps the effect of emotions, as unintended harms may go unpunished, regardless of their magnitude. Using fMRI, we found that emotionally graphic descriptions of harmful acts amplify punishment severity, boost amygdala activity and strengthen amygdala connectivity with lateral prefrontal regions involved in punishment decision-making. However, this was only observed when the actor’s harm was intentional; when harm was unintended, a temporoparietal-medial-prefrontal circuit suppressed amygdala activity and the effect of graphic descriptions on punishment was abolished. These results reveal the brain mechanisms by which evaluation of a transgressor’s mental state gates our emotional urges to punish.
The Vanderbilt Press Release on the new research appears here: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/08/fault-trumps-gruesome-evidence/
Please contact for commentary:
Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner, and Gideon Yaffe, Law and Neuroscience: Recommendations Submitted to the President’s Bioethics Commission, 1(2) J Law Biosci 224 (2014).
President Obama charged the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to identify a set of core ethical standards in the neuroscience domain, including the appropriate use of neuroscience in the criminal-justice system. The Commission, in turn, called for comments and recommendations.
The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience submitted a consensus statement containing 16 specific recommendations. These are organized within three main themes: 1) what steps should be taken to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system to make sound decisions regarding the admissibility and weight of neuroscientific evidence?; 2) to what extent can the capacity of neurotechnologies to aid in the administration of criminal justice be enhanced through research?; and 3) in what additional ways might important ethical issues at the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice be addressed?
These comments along with introductory commentary have been published by the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, and can be accessed here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2489072
The new book “Law and Neuroscience” is now published and available.
A website describing the book, with reviews from prominent neuroscientists and legal scholars, appears here.
A brief description of the book – as well as a Sample Chapter, and a Summary Table of Contents – has been posted here.
If you are interested in requesting an examination copy of the book, please contact the publisher directly by e-mail (email@example.com) or by phone (800-950-5259).
The book can be purchased from Amazon here.
Designed for use in both law schools and beyond, the book provides user-friendly introductions, as well as detailed explorations, of the many current and emerging issues at the intersection of
law and neuroscience.
One part of the book lays general foundations by exploring the relationships between law and science generally, and by comparing the views from law and from neuroscience regarding behavior and responsibility. A later part explains the basics of brain structure and function, the methods for investigating each, and both the promise and the limitations of modern neuroscience technologies.
Core themes the book addresses include new law/neuroscience issues pertaining to: brain injuries, pain and distress, memory, emotions, lie detection, judging, adolescence, addiction, and brain death. Closing units explore current and coming legal issues surrounding cognitive enhancement, brain-machine interfaces, and artificial intelligence. The materials also consider: international neurolaw, psychopathy, decision-making, mental health, the aging brain, the veteran’s brain, behavioral genetics, prediction of future dangerousness, and neuroethics. Given the scope and nature of coverage, the book is designed to serve both as a coursebook and as a reference text for judges, practicing attorneys, and scholars interested in law and neuroscience.
Judge Morris Hoffman, Member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, was recently interviewed about his new book The Punisher’s Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury (Cambridge University Press) by Dr. Raj Persaud, a Fellow of The Royal College of Psychiatrists.
To access the podcast, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO2KjIq95Fs&feature=youtu.be
Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor and the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University and member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, has authored a forthcoming book titled Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence.
The book will be published on September 9, 2014, but is now available for pre-order. To read more about this new book, visit: www.laurencesteinberg.com
U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett recently issued an opinion (U.S. v. Hendrickson) that cites neuroscience research on addiction and adolescent development and discusses addiction and youth as mitigating factors.
To read the entire opinion, visit: http://www.iand.uscourts.gov/e-web/decisions.nsf/0/81BF6F811DBA308A86257CF40075816E/$File/MWB-13-cr-4110,+United+States+v.+Hendrickson,+Sentencing+Order,+6112014.pdf
Michael V. Kaplen and Shana De Caro recently published an op-ed in The National Law Journal titled “Concussion Settlement Is Deeply Flawed.” The piece states:
Many classes of players are not adequately represented, and most NFL players are all but ignored by the attorneys who negotiated the agreement. Certain, small and discrete groups are designated for compensation, but players experiencing physical, emotional and behavioral impairments remain excluded.
The New York Times recently published a op-ed titled “The Trouble With Brain Science” by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University. The piece asks, “Are we ever going to figure out how the brain works?” and discusses the efforts of the Human Brain Project and the Brain Initiative.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody recently granted preliminary approval to “a landmark deal that would compensate thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims.”
The settlement will last at least 65 years and will provide eligible retired players with baseline neurological exams and include monetary awards for diagnoses of ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and early and moderate dementia.
To read more, visit:
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