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History: Phase I (2007-2011)

In October 2007, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced an initial $10 million grant to fund the first systematic effort to integrate law and neuroscience. (Read the official press release here). Funding Phase I of the Law and Neuroscience Project extended the Foundation’s long tradition of fostering interdisciplinary, integrative, and collaborative research that furthers social justice. Given the large gaps between legal and neuroscientific cultures – in their knowledge bases, goals, norms, and vocabularies – Phase I represented one of the most ambitious interdisciplinary bridges ever begun. It gathered and harnessed the collective talents of several dozen leading neuroscientists and legal scholars to explore a number of empirical and conceptual frontiers at this interdisciplinary nexus.

Phase I was remarkably productive, and it catalyzed research that has already reached United States courtrooms, law school classrooms, legal scholarship, and new conferences on law and neuroscience. This page provides historical information on the Project’s initial four years of operation.

Please click below to learn about the Law and Neuroscience Project’s:

Phase I: Mission & Accomplishments

Phase I of the Law and Neuroscience Project pulled together several dozen of the nation’s most talented neuroscientists and legal scholars to work closely together in collaborative research never before achieved. Phase I showed that there are concerned and committed researchers, in both disciplines, willing and eager to come together to help the criminal justice system understand neuroscientific evidence, avoid misuses and misinterpretation, and explore ways to constructively use findings from cognitive neuroscience to improve the administration of justice.

Phase I ultimately pursued several over-arching research questions at the intersection of neuroscience and law that were intended to:

  • Improve legal decisions about the responsibility of transgressors for their actions;
  • Further identify factors that can affect blameworthiness assessments;
  • Illuminate the processes by which jurors and judges make decisions about criminal liability and punishment;
  • Enable more reliable identification of deceptive testimony;
  • Increase law’s abilities to evaluate the reliability of memories on which testimony is based;
  • Aid law’s abilities to predict recidivism and future dangerousness;
  • Assess distinctions between neuroscientific evidence that should and should not be admitted in various criminal law contexts; and
  • Aid the proper interpretation, by jurors and judges, of neuroscientific evidence.


At the most general level, the accomplishments of Phase I include:

  • Establishing the conceptual foundations of law and neuroscience, as a new disciplinary intersection;
  • Building a common language (e.g., through cross-education about terms of art);
  • Developing effective interdisciplinary research teams to design and conduct cutting-edge, law-relevant research;
  • Winnowing directions for future research (from the possible to the fruitful);
  • Raising awareness of neurolaw, both in the legal system and in society (through scholarship, conferences, education and outreach, and media coverage);
  • Identifying and engaging highly motivated interdisciplinary researchers throughout the country and internationally;
  • Delineating limitations, cautions, and ethical concerns that accompany the introduction of neuroscience into law;
  • Shaping the emerging field, through scholarship and lectures directed to outside audiences; and
  • Establishing the Law and Neuroscience Project as the world’s preeminent centerpiece (or “hub”) of neurolaw activity.

More specifically, Phase I working groups, among many other things:

  • Carried out 35 empirical research projects;
  • Developed 69 non-empirical, conceptual, or review papers;
  • Created four original databases on neuroscience in law and policy;
  • Produced four edited volumes (with contributions from over 60 authors);
  • Delivered seven fully hosted conferences for education and outreach, and arranged for speakers at 13 additional conferences hosted by others, ultimately reaching over 800 judges;
  • Prepared an eight-chapter Primer for Judges on Law and Neuroscience (forthcoming from Oxford University Press);
  • Published the Judge's Guide to Neuroscience: A Concise Introduction;
  • Prepared the first Law and the Brain course book for law students (forthcoming from Aspen Publishers);
  • Published a Law and Neuroscience Bibliography consisting of 565 entries;
  • Developed syllabi for, and taught, courses on Law and Neuroscience in both law schools and psychology departments;
  • Prepared the first chapter on Law and Neuroscience in the Federal Judicial Center’s Manual of Scientific Evidence (3rd. Ed.); and
  • Created a Law and Neuroscience Project web site ( that now receives an average of over 1,000 unique hits per month, from over 50 countries worldwide.

The broad range of neurolaw topics explored in all this work included, among other things:

  • criminal responsibility
  • brain development
  • criminal mental states
  • lie and memory detection
  • appreciation of risk
  • addiction
  • punishment and juror decision-making
  • evidentiary rules
  • effect of neuroimages on juror decision-making
  • causation
  • advanced neuroscientific data analysis methods
  • trends in use of neuroscientific evidence
  • moral decision-making
  • psychopathy
  • neuroethics
  • conscious will
  • neuroprediction
  • race biases
  • public perception of neuroscience
  • neuroscience legislation
  • the dependence of law on psychology

Through this interdisciplinary activity, Phase I produced a wealth of neuroscience research, legal scholarship, and deliverables that have already begun to enter into and affect the legal system.

Phase I: Governance & Members

The initial governance structure, through June 2010, of Phase I of the Law and Neuroscience Project was as follows:

Director Co-Director Co-Director
Michael S. Gazzaniga Stephen Morse Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Director, Sage Center for the
Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law; Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University

Executive Director

Andrew Mansfield
Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara

Working Group Co-Directors

Each of the two working groups was overseen by three Co-Directors:

  • Hank Greely, Stanford Law School
  • Owen Jones, Vanderbilt University
  • Marc Raichle, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Stephen Morse, University of Pennsylvania
  • Scott Grafton, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Robert Desimone, MIT

Governing Board

The parts of the Law and Neuroscience Project were integrated under a Governing Board consisting of the Director of the Project, one co-director of each working group, and at least an equal number of other members from outside of the Initiative:

  • Sandra Day O'Connor, Former Supreme Court Justice (Honorary Chair)
  • Michael Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara (Chair)
  • Stephen Hyman, Harvard University
  • Stephen Morse, University of Pennsylvania
  • Marcus Raichle, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jed Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York
  • Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia

The Governing Board met at least once each year in person as well as regularly through email, telephone, and/or videoconference. The Governing Board made all large-scale decisions regarding policy, direction, and funding for the Project as a whole, as well as any decisions regarding adding or removing participants in the Project. The Governing Board received an annual report from each working group and from the Education and Outreach Program, evaluated the performance of these entities, and issued an annual report to the MacArthur Foundation.

Phase I Members (in alphabetical order)

  • Kathryn Abrams, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Richard Bonnie, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Silvia Bunge, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Psychology
  • Monika Gruter Cheney, Gruter Institute for Law & Behavioral Research
  • Robert Desimone, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGovern Institute, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • David Faigman, University of California Hastings College of Law
  • Martha Farah, University of Pennsylvania, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Center for Neuroscience and Society
  • William Fletcher, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • Michael Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, Sage Center for the Study of Mind
  • Oliver Goodenough, Vermont Law School
  • Scott Grafton, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Psychology
  • Hank Greely, Stanford University Law School
  • Joshua Greene, Harvard University, Department of Psychology]
  • Morris Hoffman, District Judge, Second Judicial District (Denver), State of Colorado
  • Yasmin Hurd, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Doug Husak, Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy
  • Judy Illes, University of British Columbia, National Core for Neuroethics, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine
  • Owen Jones, Vanderbilt University Law School and Department of Biological Sciences
  • Kent Kiehl, The Mind Research Network; University of New Mexico, Department of Psychology
  • Gerard Lynch, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit
  • Rene Marois, Vanderbilt University, Department of Psychology
  • Read Montague, Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience
  • Michael Moore, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Stephen Morse, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • William Newsome, Stanford University, Department of Neurobiology
  • Charles O'Brien, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
  • Elizabeth Phelps, New York University, Department of Psychology
  • Marc Raichle, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology
  • Adina Roskies, Dartmouth College, Department of Philosophy
  • Michael Saks, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
  • Jeff Schall, Vanderbilt University, Department of Psychology
  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Duke University, Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics
  • Anthony Wagner, Stanford University, Department of Psychology
  • Gary Watson, University of Southern California, Department of Philosophy
  • Amy Wax, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Susan Wolf, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Gideon Yaffe, University of Southern California, Department of Philosophy

Phase I: Education & Outreach

In addition to the research projects themselves, Phase I built institutional capacity to facilitate dialogue about law and neuroscience both within and beyond the Project. This section discusses Phase I’s conferences, monographs, education and outreach to judges, and development of a law school coursebook.

Conferences. The Phase I grant called for three annual Project meetings. Phase I exceeded this goal, holding nine total meetings (3 each year), three of which were larger, annual meetings. The meetings allowed working groups the time they needed to design research, discuss results, and coordinate dissemination.

Monographs. In addition to meetings for project members, Phase I sponsored seven conferences designed to bring both project members and other scholars together around specialized topics: Psychopathy and Criminal Responsibility; Conscious Will and Responsibility After Libet; Junior Scholars in Law & Neuroscience; Neural Detection of Pain; Psychopathy and the Law; Memory and Law; and Bioprediction. The Phase I proposal projected three monographs would emerge from these specialized conferences, but four were actually produced: (1) Conscious Will and Responsibility: A Tribute to Benjamin Libet; (2) Handbook on Psychopathy and Law; (3) Memory and Law; and (4) Bioprediction. The Libet monograph is now in print, and the other three monographs are under contract with Oxford, a leading publisher in this area. Moreover, Phase I also produced a ten chapter Working Paper on Responsibility; spurred a Phase I project member to draft a forthcoming book on the brains of legal decision makers; and allowed another Phase I member the resources to complete an edited volume on the future of punishment.

Outreach to Judges. Phase I operated an Education & Outreach program for judges, and was able to conduct significantly more judicial education programming than envisioned under the grant. While the grant originally called for three retreats for judges, the program instead delivered seven fully hosted conferences. The topics covered at the conferences included: an introduction to neuroscience; presentations on frontal lobe function including decision making, behavioral control, and counter-factual thinking; a discussion of applications to criminal law; and presentations on measuring individual variation and subjective states including lie detection, pain assessment, and punishment. In addition to those major conferences, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research also put on fifteen smaller conferences in partnership with a variety of state judicial organizations, for instance the California Judges Association. These conferences have introduced law and neuroscience techniques and issues to nearly 800 judges over the past three years.

The indirect effects of these efforts are much larger, as judges who attend the conference share information with their colleagues on the bench. Formal partnerships between the Gruter Institute, FJC, and NJC allow the neuroscience information to spread throughout the extensive FJC and NJC judicial networks. The FJC is the research and education agency of the federal judicial system. The NJC offers an average of 90 courses annually with more than 2,000 judges enrolling from all 50 states, U.S. territories and more than 150 countries.

Coursebook. Finally, Phase I invested in the development of the first Law and Neuroscience coursebook for law students (forthcoming from Aspen Legal Publishers). Co-authored by Phase I members Owen Jones and Jeffrey Schall, and joined by former fellow Francis Shen, the 32-chapter book will prepare law students to enter a legal market in which neuroscientific research on behavior is increasingly prominent. Phase I funding allowed for the hiring of multiple research assistants, necessary to compile a book of this magnitude (800 pages in hard copy, plus 500 pages of e-supplement and a lengthy teacher’s manual). The coursebook builds off of three years of Jones and Schall teaching the subject at Vanderbilt, where student demand is high (with 44 students in Spring 2011). Demand for the course is similarly picking up at other law schools, as a growing number of professors are teaching the course.

Phase I: News Archive

  • The Project co-sponsored a conference at Arizona State University on Adolescent Brains and Juvenile Justice.
  • Phase I Project members Mike Gazzaniga, Hank Greely, Stephen Morse, Kent Kiehl, and Jed Rakoff participated in the 2011 Second Circuit Judicial Conference on The Legal Brain-scape: Neuroscience & the Law.
  • Phase I Project member Martha Farah was featured in a Cell Press Neuroscience Newsletter podcast, discussing with TiCS editor Stavroula Kousta the current state of neurolaw and the legal implications of neuroscientific research. Link to Podcast » (see right hand side).
  • Phase I Project members Morris Hoffman, Francis Shen, Owen Jones, Joshua Greene, and Rene Marois posted their article "Sorting Guilty Minds" on SSRN (forthcoming in the New York University Law Review). Link to Article ».
  • Project director Owen Jones and associate director Francis Shen posted their article "Brain Scans as Evidence: Truths, Proofs, Lies, and Lessons" on SSRN (forthcoming in the Mercer Law Review). Link to Article ».
  • A Law & The Brain conference in New York (March 15-16, 2011), sponsored by Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, includes presentations by Phase I Project members Michael Gazzaniga, Jed Rakoff, Martha Farah, Stephen Morse, Frederick Schauer, Owen Jones, Liz Phelps, and Oliver Goodenough.
  • Owen Jones named Project director; Project moves to Vanderbilt. Link to Story ».
  • Phase I Project director Owen Jones discussed “How Neuroscience Is Changing Law” on the internet forum Big Think. Link to Story ».
  • Phase I Project member Walter Sinnott-Armstrong discussed Neuroscience in the Law as part of a webcast in the Duke University Office Hours series. Link to Video».
  • Phase I Project members Stephen Morse, Josh Greene, and Kent Kiehl addressed the question, Can Genes and Brain Abnormalities Create Killers? on NPR's Talk of the Nation, hosted by Neal Conan. Link to Transcript and Audio».
  • Phase I Project member Josh Greene was interviewed in a story on NPR about a recent PNAS article entitled Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments. The NPR story is available at the following link.   Link to Story» .  Discovery News provides a synopsis of the article.   Link to Article» .
  • Phase I Project members Owen Jones, Jeffrey Schall, and Rene Marois (together with Vanderbilt University graduate student Joshua Buckholtz) published Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed in the Stanford Technology Law Review.   Link to Article» .
  • Phase I Project Director Michael Gazzaniga quoted in short USA Today article entitled Who killed John Lennon? Science looks at brain and the law.   Link to Article» .
  • Phase I Project member Kent Kiehl testified in the sentencing trial of admitted murderer Brian Dugan.  Kiehl relied on imaging data in his expert testimony and this effort is profiled in Miller-McCuneA Mind of Crime: How brain-scanning technology is redefining criminal culpability. Link to Article» .
  • Project members William Newsome and Joshua Greene were featured in an episode of the Brain Series on the Charlie Rose Show. Link to Video»
  • Phase I Project member Kent Kiehl and Joshua Buckholtz of Vanderbilt University recently published Inside the Mind of a Psychopath in Scientific American. Link to Article ».