- Published: November 30, 1999
This quick proliferation of neuroscience findings is precisely the reason why policy makers should take a cautionary approach in considering neuroscience when deciding and implementing criminal judicial policy. New data on the brain is being churned out almost a daily basis. Take for example an article published by Duke Medicine. In it, Duke researchers believe they have discovered a new molecule in the brain with potential use in “treating memory loss, psychiatric disease and brain development .” While the Duke finding is indeed a credible discovery, we have not the faintest idea of where this research will lead to in the future. Now if certain characteristics of this molecule were initially implicated with a greater susceptibility to criminal behavior, law makers might be tempted to use this information as evidence against defendants when, in fact, more research is needed to elucidate this molecule’s role in the brain.
The hypothetical situation I mentioned above is the sort of trapping I believe law makers should avoid. Neuroscience undoubtedly has a lot to contribute in dealing with criminal court cases; however, this can only be true if our science behind comprehending the brain is interpreted correctly and in the correct context. Our judicial system must always remain vigilant that controversial policy can be made surrounding poorly understood reasoning, such as in the case of the M'Naghten rules.