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Brains on Trial: Neuroscience and Law

Date & Time

Saturday, June 1, 2013
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
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The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

What if we could peer into a brain and see guilt or innocence? Brain scanning technology is trying to break its way into the courtroom, but can we—and should we—determine criminal fate based on high-tech images of the brain? Join a distinguished group of neuroscientists and legal experts who will debate how and if neuroscience should inform our laws and how we treat criminals.

This program is based on a two-part PBS special, “Brains on Trial with Alan Alda,” scheduled for broadcast on September 11 and 18 at 10PM, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Actor, author, and director Alan Alda has been put up to an odd task: steal an object from a drawer, lie about it, and see if a fMRI can catch him. Neuroimaging looks like it can read our minds, but can it? ...and does it have a place in the courtroom?

Video courtesy of The Chedd-Angier Production Company


  • Alan Alda

    Alan Alda, a six-time Emmy Award–winner, played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series, M*A*S*H, and appeared in continuing roles on ER, The West Wing, and 30 Rock. His long-time interest in science and in promoting a greater public understanding of science led to his hosting the award-winning PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years, on which he interviewed hundreds of scientists from around the world. More »


  • Nita A. Farahany

    Genome Sciences & Policy Lawyer Nita A. Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience and behavioral genetics. More »
  • Jay N. Giedd

    Psychiatrist Jay N. Giedd is a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist, chief of brain imaging at the child psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, and an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the department of population, family and reproductive health. More »
  • Kent Kiehl

    Psychologist, Neuroscientist Kent Kiehl is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of New Mexico, and executive science officer of the non-profit Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, NM. He conducts clinical neuroscience research of major mental illnesses, with special focus on criminal psychopathy, sex offenders, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders. More »
  • Jed S. Rakoff

    Judge Jed Rakoff is a U.S. District judge and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School. Prior to going on bench, Rakoff was an assistant U.S. attorney, a criminal defense lawyer, and partner at two major law firms. More »
  • Anthony D. Wagner

    Psychologist, Neuroscientist Anthony Wagner is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Memory Laboratory and co-directs the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging. His research focuses on the psychology and neurobiology of learning, memory, and executive function in healthy individuals and, through collaboration, in clinical populations. More »