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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Mar;1124:145-60. doi: 10.1196/annals.1440.007.

Can neurological evidence help courts assess criminal responsibility? Lessons from law and neuroscience.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. aharoni@psych.ucsb.edu


Can neurological evidence help courts assess criminal responsibility? To answer this question, we must first specify legal criteria for criminal responsibility and then ask how neurological findings can be used to determine whether particular defendants meet those criteria. Cognitive neuroscience may speak to at least two familiar conditions of criminal responsibility: intention and sanity. Functional neuroimaging studies in motor planning, awareness of actions, agency, social contract reasoning, and theory of mind, among others, have recently targeted a small assortment of brain networks thought to be instrumental in such determinations. Advances in each of these areas bring specificity to the problems underlying the application of neuroscience to criminal law.

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