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Flaschner and Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior

Grant Information

Year Awarded
Dana Education

With this grant, the Flaschner Judicial Institute and the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior (CLBB) co-created and piloted a judicial education program with Massachusetts state court judges to promote the effective and appropriate use of neuroscience in the law. The goal was to develop a model of judicial neuroscience education that is aligned with real-world judicial practice, focused on the highest-priority needs, and that includes bidirectional learning between judges and scientific experts.

There is a need for judicial education in neuroscience because courts are seeing an increasing number of cases involving neuroscientific evidence, and advances in neuroscience research offer both promise and peril to the legal system. This project aimed to explore how a better understanding of neuroscience by judges, who act as the gatekeepers for the admissibility of expert witness testimony and scientific evidence, may enable neuroscience to play a productive role in the decisions made by judges and juries.

The curriculum for the program—which consisted of a two-day opening retreat, two half-day sessions, and a concluding full-day workshop—was co-created by a planning group of judges, Flaschner staff, and experts from the CLBB. Each session was conducted in-person with the same cohort of 35 judges, allowing them to develop close relationships with one another that fostered open dialogue on the topics presented. The topics were chosen with input from the judges and included the neuroscience of adolescence and emerging adulthood; the neuroscience of addiction; trauma and the brain; the aging brain; and cannabis and mental illness. Each session included a combination of lectures, discussions, and real-world case studies.

This grant supported the Dana Education objective to facilitate greater understanding and informed decision-making among professionals by supporting new education approaches on neuroscience topics related to their practice.

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