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New Psychopathy Research

The Stanford Neuroethics Blog has some great updates about new psychopathy research. One of the articles postulates that it may be a specific type of attention problem that leads to the psychopathy phenotype. Check out the link.

MacArthur has a new blog on the law and neuroscience. Check it out here:

Long overdue update

Just a quick update to say that the site is not dead.  The most active portion at present is the list of links in the column on the right.  I will be posting links about forensics, functional imaging, and the use of large dataset computing techniques for research.

A few recent articles of interest:

PLoS ONE: Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans

>”Those on oxytocin were 80% more generous than those given a placebo. Oxytocin and altruism together predicted almost half the interpersonal variation in generosity. Notably, oxytocin had twofold larger impact on generosity compared to altruism.”

PLoS Medicine – Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood

“The researchers found that increased blood lead levels before birth and during early childhood were associated with higher rates of arrest for any reason and for violent crimes.”

Not Exactly Rocket Science : Computer predicts brain activity associated with different objects

>”A team of scientists has developed the first computer programme that can predict patterns for concrete nouns – tangible things that you can experience with your senses.”

Law, Economics and Neuroscience Conference: Implications for Innovation

>”One participant suggested that Neurolaw was at the stage where Neuroeconomics was five years ago: enterprising researchers who want to engage in the work will do so, despite skeptics, and will eventually produce useful results.”

Mind Hacks: Warping court memories with subtle suggestions

>”The legal system works on a principal of innocent until proven guilty by the evidence presented in court, but Cognitive Daily covers several studies that shown our memory of the evidence is affected by moral judgements of the person in question.”

ScienceDirect – Cognition : Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning

>We argue that brain images are influential because they provide a physical basis for abstract cognitive processes, appealing to people’s affinity for reductionistic explanations of cognitive phenomena.

Taking a break

I’m going to take a bit of a break to finish some research, attend an Evidence Based Medicine conference, go on vacation, and then study for the boards.

Please feel free to contact me through the form above. Discussion will continue via email.

I will also continue to update the list of links in the second column. I recommend the thought-provoking article about Mens Rea and the preconscious brain.

Simulated Insanity

In this chapter, Ray talks about the concept of simulating mental illness to avoid legal consequences.

The workings of an insane mind — such as attract the popular notice — are apparently so confused and discordant, so wild and unnatural, as to have given rise to the notion as prevalent as it is unfounded that insanity may be easily imitated.

He goes on to note: (more after the jump) Continue Reading »

I’ve started adding links to some different articles in the second column, just under the calendar. The links are related to neuroscience, technology, and psychiatry. I try to choose stories that are new, different, or controversial. A link to a story does not imply endorsement or agreement; it simply implies that I think it’s worth the time to read it if the headline catches your eye.

Welcome New Readers

forensic-medicineThanks to those of you who have taken the time to visit after the mention in the AAPL newsletter. To help you jump right in, there’s a schedule posted above for your convenience. Also, please note that a copy of Isaac Ray’s book is available as a free PDF here.

You can join the discussion by using the contact. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

JohnReidThis chapter describes the periodicity of mental illness. Ray notes that although episodes of improved function are common, they are also generally incomplete. That is, they are not usually defined by a complete and total remission of illness. Excerpts from both medical and legal works are cited, with one of the most eloquent by Dr. John Reid, and English physician.

“There are few cases of mania or melancholy where the light of reason does not now and then shine out between the clouds. In fever of the mind, as well as those of the body, there occur frequent intermissions. But the mere interruption of a disorder is not to be mistaken for its cure, or its ultimate conclusion. Little stress ought to be laid upon those occasional and uncertain disentanglements of the intellect, in which the patient is for a time only extricated from the labyrinth of his morbid hallucinations.”

Ray notes that during lucid intervals it is generally true that an individual is responsible for his actions. This assertion is followed by a stern warning to avoid assuming that this is the case, given the previously mentioned residual cognitive deficits previously noted. The length and quality of lucid intervals is highly variable, and indeed few assumptions of any kind should be made about function without a careful interview.

Pinel described that most patients who are going to improve do so in the first month of hospitalization. Esquirol’s numbers from Salpêtrière are at odds with this, but support the supposition that as time goes on fewer patients recover. pinel-at-salpetriere A number of case reports follow, some of which outline improbable events associated with recovery from altered mental status. Ray himself notes that these events were likely coincidental to an improvement that was likely part of the natural disease course. He cautions against predicting recovery with certainty, which seems wise in a pre-antipsychotic era. Intellectual impairment and senile dementia are noted not to have the same periods of improvement noted in other diseases. The likelihood of recurring illness after initial onset of illness is recognized as very likely, and the strength of that likelihood is noted to be related to extent of recovery to premorbid baseline. When the court calls for determination of sanity, Ray cautions that the time frame between certain illness and certain recovery is long, and a significant gray area.

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