Law and Neuroscience

Intersection of Law and Neuroscience

Scientists build their knowledge of the natural and social worlds by collecting data from groups and making inferences at the group or population level. Lawyers are largely concerned with how the natural and social worlds impact or might help to decide individual cases. Given this lack of a shared basis for analysis, translating scientific findings to law is a central problem in courtrooms. The Consortium supports research efforts that help bridge that gap between growth of scientific understanding and the real world applications of those findings.

NEDBELS: Neurodiversity Between Law and Science

“Neurodiversity between Law and Science” (NEDBELS) seeks to inquire into the legal impacts and socio-political implications of the concept of neurodiversity. This term pertains to individuals diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism and hypothesizes the emergence of a new category of difference in the human population. NEDBELS explores how this concept challenges the constitutional principle of equality, as well as how it fosters the need to accommodate new principles in criminal and civil law.

This proposal has risen from a need for heightened communication between law and science. Scientific theories, concepts and methods widely
permeate law and adjudication, and legal and ethical frameworks intimately drive applied sciences, as in education and health care systems. Therefore, one might reasonably expect that these two worlds would cooperate on a regular basis.

However, lawyers, scientists and health care professionals operate largely insulated from one another in research, formal training and daily practice. This divergence prevents vulnerable minorities, such as people with neurodevelopmental disorders, from reaping the full socio-political potential of scientific advancements.

NEDBELS’s goal is to increase communication between law and neurosciences through interdisciplinary research methodologies and scientific training through research as well as by enhancing the synergy among legal experts, policy makers and scientists in the field of neurodiversity.

Photo of Professor Andrea Lollini

Andrea Lollini is a visiting scholar from the University of Bologna, Italy. He has been awarded a Marie Curie Global Fellowship in support of the NEBDELS project.