The Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, addresses a focused set of closely-related problems at the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice. These include: (1) investigating law-relevant mental states of, and decision-making processes in, defendants, witnesses, jurors, and judges; (2) investigating in adolescents the relationship between brain development and cognitive capacities; and (3) assessing how best to draw inferences about individuals from group-based neuroscientific data.
The Research Network is an interdisciplinary collaborative initiative with two main goals: (1) to help the legal system avoid misuse of neuroscientific evidence in criminal law contexts, and (2) to explore ways to deploy neuroscientific insights to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
The MacArthur Foundation laid the cornerstones for the Network by drawing together several dozen of the nation's top researchers beginning in 2007 to conduct a coordinated and comprehensive investigation of basic issues at the intersection of law and neuroscience, funded by a four-year grant. In 2011, the new MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience began to build on those cornerstones with an interconnected program of research with three foci: Mental States, Development, and Evidence.