Skip to main content


September 9, 2016


To Neurolaw News Subscribers:

How does the brain render punishment decisions?  Thanks to innovative work by lead author Matthew Ginther , a joint graduate student in law and neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, a just-published study successfully used fMRI brain-scanning techniques to identify and dissociate the four different patterns of brain activities involved in:  

1.     Evaluating the mental state of a defendant

2.     Evaluating the harm the defendant caused

3.     Integrating mental state and harm information

4.     Deciding a punishment amount

The work – published as “ Parsing the Behavioral and Brain Mechanisms of Third-Party Punishment ” in The Journal of Neuroscience – provides the most detailed information yet of how the brain makes punishment decisions. 

The article is a project of The Working Group on Intent and Punishment, led by Research Network Director and principal investigator Owen Jones .  The interdisciplinary team on this project, spanning 5 institutions, consisted of: Matthew Ginther, Richard Bonnie, Morris Hoffman, Francis Shen, Ken Simons, Owen Jones, and Rene Marois. 

Download the paper here .



Neurolaw News is produced by The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, headquartered at Vanderbilt University Law School, 131 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203.  For more information, please see: < / >.  For phone inquiries, please call 615-343-9797.

To UNSUBSCRIBE or to SUBSCRIBE: send an email to Executive Assistant Sarah Grove at < > with either “Unsubscribe” or “Subscribe” in the subject line.  To access the Neurolaw News archives, visit /listserv.php#archives