How Courts Use Neuroscience

Brain ImageBy Francie Diep

Pacific Standard

In 2009, officials in Lorain County, Ohio, sued a single mother for permanent custody of her 10- and 11-year-old children, claiming that the mother neglected the children and her boyfriends sexually abused them. Although social workers had provided the mother with parenting classes, she was incapable of doing a better job, the county maintained. Among the evidence officials provided: the fact that when she was 14, the mother had been in a car accident that left her mentally impaired and with a reported IQ of 70.*

The Lorain family case is just one of more than 1,500 United States judicial opinions given between 2007 and 2012 that cite brain science in some way. As brain-measuring technologies have improved, neuroscience arguments have increasingly made their way into the U.S. judicial system, as a few observers have noted. A new report, published last week by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, tallies up specific numbers about how and when neuroscience shows up in court cases.

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Picture: Thomas Schultz (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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