Paul Zak is a pioneer in this nascent field of neuroeconomics. In a recent paper published in the journal PLoS One, he examined genes that may predict success among traders on Wall Street. His forthcoming book, “The Moral Molecule,” will explore how a chemical in the brain called oxytocin compels cooperation in society.
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“Neurolaw” - A meeting of the minds on brain and law
This emerging area of work was coined “neurolaw” in 1991, and has been bringing together interdisciplinary teams of neuroscientists, scholars, lawyers and judges to explore and deliberate where the science of the brain and the principles of justice intersect. As the understanding of the brain becomes greater, many new questions with potentially game-changing answers arise. How can assemblies of brain cells and the inter-actions between them lead to notions of guilt and punishment? What is the role of our genes and our brains in the courtroom? Will neuroscience change how we feel about criminal responsibility? How is eyewitness testimony affected by aging, neurologic and psychiatric conditions? What can courts and other justice system participants learn from neuroscience to improve eyewitness reliability, including lineup procedures, jury instructions and the use of expert witnesses? How does popular culture affect public perceptions of the meaning of moral and legal responsibility? The answers to these questions, and many more, have great potential to influence how we, as a society, deliver justice and punishment.
Neuroscience could mean soldiers controlling weapons with minds:
Soldiers could have their minds plugged directly into weapons systems, undergo brain scans during recruitment and take courses of neural stimulation to boost their learning, if the armed forces embrace the latest developments in neuroscience to hone the performance of their troops.
These scenarios are described in a report into the military and law enforcement uses of neuroscience, published on Tuesday, which also highlights a raft of legal and ethical concerns that innovations in the field may bring.
Interview with Professor Rod Flower FRS, chair of the Royal Society’s new report.
I was sent this article by a good friend of mine who also happens to be a psychiatrist. It’s about one of the driving forces of Einztein: the thirst for knowledge.
Why information is its own reward - same neurons signal thirst for water, knowledge
by Ed Yong
To me, and I suspect many readers, the quest for information can be an intensely rewarding experience. Discovering a previously elusive fact or soaking up a finely crafted argument can be as pleasurable as eating a fine meal when hungry or dousing a thirst with drink. This isn’t just a fanciful analogy - a new study suggests that the same neurons that process the primitive physical rewards of food and water also signal the more abstract mental rewards of information.
Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka trained two thirsty rhesus monkeys to choose between two targets on a screen with a flick of their eyes; in return, they randomly received either a large drink or a small one after a few seconds. Their choice of target didn’t affect which drink they received, but it did affect whether they got prior information about the size of their reward. One target brought up another symbol that told them how much water they would get, while the other brought up a random symbol.
After a few days of training, the monkeys almost always looked at the target that would give them advance intel, even though it never actually affected how much water they were given. They wanted knowledge for its own sake. What’s more, even though the gap between picking a target and sipping some water was very small, the monkeys still wanted to know what was in store for them mere seconds later. To them, ignorance is far from bliss.