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Behav Sci Law. 2009 Mar-Apr;27(2):123-36. doi: 10.1002/bsl.853.

Neuroscience and the law: philosophical differences and practical constraints.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Neuropsychiatric Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, CA, USA.


Controversies surrounding the value of neuroscience as forensic evidence are explored from the perspective of the philosophy of mind, as well as from a practical analysis of the state of the scientific research literature. At a fundamental philosophical level there are profound differences in how law and neuroscience view the issue of criminal responsibility along the continuum from free will to determinism. At a more practical level, significant limitations in the current state of neuroimaging research constrain its ability to inform legal decision-making. Scientifically supported and unsupported forensic applications for brain imaging are discussed, and recommendations for forensic report writing are offered.

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