The Brain On Trial Essay

486 words - 2 pages

How should insights about the brain affect the
course of a criminal trial, from the arguments in a
courtroom to the issuing of a sentence?

This was the topic of the Fred Kavli Public
Symposium, held recently at the Society for
Neuroscience's "Neuroscience 2011." Titled "The
Brain on Trial: Neuroscience and the Law," the
symposium looked at how advances in
neuroscience are both challenging and assisting
the judicial system. To explore this further, The
Kavli Foundation brought together three experts to
discuss the subject. Joining the dialogue:

Alan Leshner, symposium chair; chief
executive officer of the American
Association for the Advancement of
Science and former head of the National
Institute of Drug Abuse;
Martha Farah, director of the Center for
Neuroscience and Society, University of
Jay Giedd, MD, an expert in adolescent
brain development at the National Institute
of Mental Health and chief of NIMH's Unit
on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry

Together they examined the role neuroscience
should have in determining legal policies and
judgments, discussed innovative brain-based
treatments for certain pathological behavior, and
raised concerns about the use and misuse of
scientific evidence. "The mere fact that brain
processes give rise to the behavior isn't enough to
excuse it," said Farah. "But the law does recognize
some psychological conditions that diminish
responsibility, and if neuroscience knows
something about the neural processes underlying
these conditions, it can aid in their diagnoses."

Among the critical issues: how new insights about
brain maturity should be used when assessing

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