PARTICIPANTS: Anthony D. Wagner, Jay N. Giedd, Nita A. Farahany, Jed S. Rakoff, Kent Kiehl
PROGRAM DATE: Saturday, June 1, 2013

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.

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Alan Alda
Actor, Author, Director

Alan Alda, a seven-time Emmy Award–winner, played Hawkeye Pierce and wrote many of the episodes on the classic TV series M*A*S*H, and appeared in continuing roles on ER, The West Wing, 30 Rock, and The Blacklist. He has starred in, written, and directed many films, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. 

His interest in science led to his hosting the award-winning PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years, on which he interviewed hundreds of scientists.  Also on PBS he hosted The Human Spark, winning the 2010 Kavli Science Journalism Award, and Brains on Trial in 2013. On Broadway, he appeared as the physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED. He is the author of the play Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie. He has won the National Science Board’s “Public Service Award,” the Scientific American “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and the American Chemical Society Award for “Public Service,” among others.  He is a Visiting Professor at Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.


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 (schizophrenia; Alzheimer’s disease). His lab uses a variety of brain imaging techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography, to understand how the brain builds and retrieves memories and to examine the processes that enable goal-directed behavior. In addition to his basic science and translational research, he examines the implications of neuroscience for the law as a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.


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. Since 1991 Giedd has been conducting research on the biological basis of cognition, emotion, and behavior with a particular emphasis on the teen years.

As one of the world’s most cited child and adolescent psychiatrists, his longitudinal studies combining brain imaging, genetics, and neuropsychology have had a transformative impact on psychology, psychiatry, clinical care, the judicial system, parenting philosophy, adolescent medicine, substance abuse, and education reform. In addition to his over 200 scientific papers, and being the recipient of many national and international academic awards, Giedd’s work has been widely covered in the general media and he was the 2012 co-recipient of the Society for Neuroscience’s Science Educator Award for making brain research advances accessible to a wide audience.

Bioethicist, Law Professor

Nita A. Farahany is a Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke University and the director of Duke Science & Society. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and continues to serve as a member. She is a widely published scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of the biosciences and emerging technologies. Farahany is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a board member of the International Neuroethics Society and the Center for Responsible Brainwave Technologies, a member of the Law and Ethics Advisory Panel as part of the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University, and a co-editor in chief of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences. Farahany holds an AB (genetics) from Dartmouth College, and an ALM (biology) from Harvard University, and a JD, MA, and Ph.D. (philosophy) from Duke University.


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. He teaches an upperclass course on science and the courts at Columbia Law School and is the author of several judicial opinions and law review articles on the interplay of science and the law. Rakoff served on the governing board of the MacArthur Foundation Project on Law and Neuroscience, and co-authored A Judge’s Guide to Neuroscience. He also served on various committees of the National Academy of Science and is a member of American Law Institute and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Rakoff was educated at Swarthmore College, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School.

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. Kiehl’s laboratory makes use of the Mind Mobile MRI System (patent pending) to conduct research and treatment protocols with forensic populations.

Kiehl lectures extensively to state and federal judges, lawyers, probation officers, and correctional officials. Recently he developed the educational curriculum for federal judges on neuroscience in the courtroom the, with the Federal Judicial Center (FJC). He has authored over 120 peer-reviewed manuscripts and currently directs seven major NIH projects. Kiehl received his undergraduate degree in psychology and neuroscience at The University of California, and his doctorate in psychology and neuroscience from the University of British Columbia.