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Neurocriminology: Neuroethical and Neurolegal Implications

Adrian Raine, Richard Perry University Professor in the Departments of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

March 19, 2011
59 minutes
Adrian Raine


The very rapid developments taking place in brain imaging science are creating an uncomfortable tension between our concepts of responsibility and retribution on the one hand, and our concepts of understanding and mercy on the other. Scientific evidence now documents structural and functional brain impairments not just in antisocial, violent, and psychopathic individuals, but also in white collar criminals and spouse abusers. In addition, the brain circuits found to be impaired in offenders - including psychopaths - parallel the brain circuits found to underlie moral decision-making. This talk will focus on concepts of moral responsibility, free will, and punishment. If a young baby suffers trauma, abuse, and insults to brain structure / function early on in life for reasons beyond their control, are they truly responsible for their antisocial actions? Do they have full freedom of will? What do we do with children who have all the boxes checked for future violence? And if the neural circuitry underling morality is compromised in offenders, is it morally right of us to punish prisoners as much as we do?


Adrian Raine, an internationally renowned expert in the emerging field of neurocriminology, integrates neuroscientific and social perspectives in the prediction and explanation of violent behavior, particularly in psychopaths.