Saturday, February 20, 2010: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM
Room 2 (San Diego Convention Center)The past two decades have seen amazing advances in our understanding of how the brain functions. In particular, new and improved imaging technologies have inspired research studies designed to elucidate how brain structure and function relate to behavior. Not surprisingly, new findings in neuroscience are beginning to gain visibility in the legal system, including the courtroom. In just the past few years, judges have been confronted with neuroscience-related issues such as the maturity of the adolescent brain, states of consciousness, and the foibles of human memory. This symposium will examine how one such issue, the connection between brain structure and function and violent behavior, is playing out in some criminal trials. The format of the session will imitate roughly that of a courtroom. Prosecuting and defense attorneys will call on two neuroscience experts to offer testimony regarding the degree to which a fictitious criminal’s brain defects may have predisposed or caused the violent behavior with which the defendant is charged and whether neuroimaging and other indices of brain function are advanced enough to be relied on for such decisions. The two lawyers will also offer often legal arguments related to the standards for the admissibility of new technologies, personal responsibility, and the proper balance of punishment and treatment in administering justice. And a judge will discuss the factors that guide judicial decision-making in cases like this.
Deborah Runkle, AAAS Science and Policy Programs
Mark S. Frankel, AAAS Science and Policy Programs
Michael Zigmond, University of Pittsburgh