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Neuroscience and Society Series: Neuroscience and the Law

1200 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC

Neuroscience and the Law

Research on the brain has shed new light on the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. These advances have not been lost on the legal system, where they raise serious issues for the law, from matters relating to the admissibility of evidence to decisions about criminal culpability. Speakers at this event addressed what neuroscience can and cannot tell us about human behavior; the ways in which neuroscience is entering the courtroom; and the challenges this emerging knowledge poses for the trier of fact.

This event was sponsored by the International Neuroethics Society and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.

Speaker Biographies

Alan I. Leshner

Leshner has been Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Executive Publisher of the journal Science since December 2001. Before coming to AAAS, Leshner was Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He also has served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, held a variety of senior positions at the National Science Foundation, and served as a professor of Psychology at Bucknell University. Leshner received an undergraduate degree in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physiological psychology from Rutgers University.

Steven E. Hyman, M.D.

Hyman is Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and also serves as Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. The Stanley Center is dedicated to reducing the burden of serious mental illness through research.  From 2001 to 2011, Hyman served as Provost of Harvard University, the University’s chief academic officer. From 1996 to 2001, he was Director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he emphasized investment in neuroscience and emerging genetic technologies, and initiated a series of large practical clinical trials to inform practice.  He also created a focus on mental disorders in children, a population about which little was known.  Hyman is the editor of the Annual Review of Neuroscience, President of the International Neuroethics Society, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies where he serves on the governing Council, the Board of Health Science Policy, and chairs the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders which brings together industry, government, and academia.

Owen Jones, J.D.

Jones holds the New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair in Law at Vanderbilt University, where he has a joint appointment as Professor of Biological Sciences. He also serves as Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience – a national team of scientists, legal scholars, and judges who are jointly exploring both the promise of, and the limits of, using neuroscientific findings in legal contexts. His work, both empirical and theoretical, is published in scientific as well as legal venues. He uses brain-imaging (fMRI), behavioral biology, and behavioral economics to learn more about how the brain’s varied operations affect behaviors relevant to law. Most recently, he co-discovered with colleagues at Vanderbilt the brain activity underlying decisions of whether to punish someone and, if so, how much. Before joining the academy, he clerked for Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and practiced law with the D.C. law firm Covington & Burling. Jones received his B.A from Amherst College and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Judge Barbara Rothstein

Judge Rothstein is a visiting U.S. District Judge from the Western District of Washington. She most recently served as Director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. from 2003-2011. She was chief judge of the Western District of Washington from 1987-1994. Judge Rothstein graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University and attended Harvard Law School.  Before her appointment to the federal bench in 1980, she served as a King County Superior Court judge for the State of Washington. Judge Rothstein serves on the Judicial Advisory Board of the American Society of International Law, the Board of the Rule of Law Initiative of the ABA, the Judicial Advisory Board of the Sedona Conference®; the Board of the Institute of Judicial Administration at NYU Law School, and the Board of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School. She also serves as a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Science Technology and Law.