Recent years have seen enormous advances in scientific and theoretical understanding of the brain.
These advances provide new insights into how the law influences behaviour.
At the same time, legal theorists have suggested that jurisprudence and legal theory should take a 'naturalistic turn' to be more informed by brain sciences.
Academics within the Law School are examining the use of research from cognitive science, neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, and associated brain sciences within law and the justice system.
Some of the academics in our research cluster have dual qualifications in cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy. They conduct empirical research, analyse statistics, and engage in programming. They are collaborating with neuroscientists, psychologists and psychiatrists to understand the reliability of scientific claims, and working with lawyers worldwide to understand how science is being used in different jurisdictions and to recommend best practice.
Some of the many fascinating and important questions for the law that are being raised by developments in the brain sciences include:
- Why do 'extra-legal' influences such as character and politics affect outcomes in legal cases?
- Do human 'metaphysics of the stone age' limit law's ability to exploit advances in brain sciences?
- Can brain sciences such as neuroimaging reveal whether a person is in pain or is lying, and if so, should such techniques be used?
- Is research suggesting that genotype and childhood mistreatment are linked with higher rates of violent offending relevant to criminal justice?
- Given that the brain develops over time, should this affect attributions of criminal responsibility?
- What circumstances affect the reliability of memory and how can this inform legal procedure?
- Is neuro-enhancement fair, and how should it be regulated?
- Should we use brain science to assess the risk someone poses to society even before they have been found responsible for any wrongdoing by a court?
- Could we use algorithms to help determine legal cases in a more transparent way?
- Can advances in brain sciences illuminate more orthodox legal methodologies such as conceptual analysis in jurisprudence and legal theory?
Our place in developing the law
The Open University Law School is the leading UK centre for the study of the legal implications of advances in the brain sciences. Members of the Law School have been active in discussing the types of issues raised above with academics, practitioners, and judges in academic and practical contexts.
Lisa Claydon was a member of the Royal Society working group examining the legal applications of neuroscience. She was also a member of the International Neuroethics Society’s Programme Committee.
Paul Catley and Lisa jointly founded the European Association for Neuroscience and Law and have taught annually on its International Postgraduate School. Lisa and Paul have undertaken comparative studies into the use of neuroscience in criminal courts with colleagues from Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the USA.
Lisa is particularly interested in how brain sciences can impact on legal understanding of agency and responsibility and, together with Patrick Haggard of UCL's Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, was awarded a £200,000 Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to study this topic.
Paul Troop, Paul Catley, and Lisa have been examining how brain sciences can inform our understanding of defences and mitigation based on genetics, mistreatment, and health.
Stephanie Pywell and Paul Catley have considered the legal implications of using neuroimaging to communicate with those in minimally conscious states, work that overlaps with Lisa's research into the use of brain-computer interfaces in end-of-life decisions.
The BraSciL cluster is led by Paul Troop and Louise Taylor.
If you are an OU academic or an Associate Lecturer and would like to join the cluster, please drop us a line
If you would like to be kept informed of our news and events please ask to join our informal mailing list
And you can follow @OU_BraSciL on Twitter
It may be possible to arrange a PhD supervisory team with expertise in one of the above, or related, topics. Current topics of interest may include:
- Brain function and its influence on obedience to the law.
- Heuristics and biases' in the legal context
- The psychology of coercive control
- Police decision-making regarding memory evidence
- Social learning theory applied to sporting injuries
- Catley, P, Pywell, S and Tanner, A (2021) End-of-life Decisions for Patients with Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness in England and Wales: Time for Neuroscience-informed Improvements. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 30(1): 73–89 (Online, DOI: 10.1017/S0963180120000584). (20% contribution). 250 full-text online views and 17 ORO downloads between January and November 2021.
- Catley, P. (2019) ‘Personality Change, Criminal Responsibility and Diminished Capacity’, in Waltermann, A. et al. (eds) Law, Science, Rationality (Maastricht Law Series): 14. 1st edition. The Hague, The Netherlands: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 177–208.
- Claydon, L. (2019) ‘Coercion Changes Sense of Agency?’, in Waltermann, A. et al. (eds) Law, Science, Rationality (Maastricht Law Series): 14. 1st edition. The Hague, The Netherlands: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 177–208.
- Taylor, Louise and Justice, Lucy (2019). Autobiographical memory misconceptions and the police investigative response to rape complaints. The Criminal Law Review, (10) pp. 827–840.
- Pywell, S (2018) No Judge Required: M (by her litigation friend, Mrs B) v A Hospital; M (Withdrawal of treatment: need for proceedings) (2017) EWCOP 19. Medical Law Review https://doi.org/10.1093/medlaw/fwx067.
453 online views and 112 ORO downloads between January 2018 and November 2021.
- Paul Catley, (2017), ‘Abolishing Insanity: Proposals from England and Wales’ in Mark D. White (ed) The Insanity Defense: Multidisciplinary Views on Its History, Trends and Controversies, Praeger, pp 273 – 305, ISBN: 978-1-4408-3180-5,
Paul Catley and Lisa Claydon, (2017), ‘If a brain can be caught lying, should we admit that evidence to court? Here’s what legal experts think’ The Conversation, August 2nd (subsequently republished in The Metro and in The Independent)
- Lisa Claydon (2017), ‘Criminal Law and the Evolving Technological Understanding of Behaviour’, in Brownsword R., Scottford E. and Yeung K. eds. Law Regulation and Technology, Oxford Handbooks, Oxford University Press 338 -59 ISBN 978-0-19-968083-2
- Lisa Claydon, (2017), ‘Cognitive Neuroscience, Criminal Justice and Control’, in M.R. McGuire and Thomas J. Holt eds. The Routledge Handbook of Technology, Crime and Justice 462-478 ISBN: 9781138820135
- Lisa Claydon ‘Brain-based mind reading for lawyers: reflecting on possibilities and perils’, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, (2017) DOI: 10.1093/jlb/lsx032
- Paul Catley, (2016) ‘The Future of Neurolaw’, European Journal of Current Legal Issues: Special edition intersecting neuroscience with criminal responsibility
- Lisa Claydon and Caroline Roediger, (2016) ‘Fear, Loss of Control and Cognitive Neuroscience’, European Journal of Current Legal Issues: Special edition intersecting neuroscience with criminal responsibility
- Pywell, S (2016) Live or Let Die? The Court of Protection’s Ground-Breaking Decision in M v N (by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) and others  EWCOP 76 (Fam.) Journal of Medical Law and Ethics 4(2): 143–152. ISSN 2213-5405 (print); 2214-5354 (online).
No publisher’s data available; 273 ORO downloads between December 2016 and November 2021.
- Catley P and Pywell S (2015) The ethical imperative of ascertaining and respecting the wishes of the minimally conscious patient facing a life or death decision. Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik Band 19 (2014) (Yearbook of Science and Ethics), edited by Sturma,D, Honnefelder, L and Fuchs, M: 77–90. De Gruyter, ISSN 1430-9017 (print); 1613-1142 (online). (50% contribution)
No publisher’s data available; 570 ORO downloads between March 2016 and November 2021.
- Paul Catley, (forthcoming), ‘Personality Change, Criminal Responsibility and Diminished Capacity’ in A. Waltermann et. al. (eds) Law, Science and Rationality,
- Paul Catley, and Lisa Claydon, (2015) ‘The use of neuroscientific evidence by those accused of criminal offences in England and Wales 2005-2012’, Journal of Law and the Biosciences.
- Paul Catley and Stephanie Pywell (2015) ‘The ethical imperative of ascertaining and respecting the wishes of the minimally conscious patient facing a life-or-death decision’, Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik Band 19 (2014) (Yearbook of Science and Ethics), D Sturma, L Honnefelder and M Fuchs (eds). Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 77–89.
- Catley, P and Pywell S (2015) The ethical imperative of ascertaining and respecting the wishes of the minimally conscious patient facing a life or death decision. Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik Band 19 (2014) (Yearbook of Science and Ethics), edited by Sturma,D, Honnefelder, L and Fuchs, M: 77–90. De Gruyter, ISSN 1430-9017 (print); 1613-1142 (online). (50% contribution) No publisher’s data available; 570 ORO downloads between March 2016 and November 2021.
- Lisa Claydon, (2015) ‘Reforming automatism and insanity: Neuroscience and claims of lack of capacity for control’, Medicine Science and the Law, 55(3):162-7.
- Lisa Claydon (2015) ‘Should there be a right to die with dignity in certain medical cases in the United Kingdom?’, Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik, 91-106
- Stephanie Pywell (2015) ‘Potential legal implications of neuroimaging techniques for the clinical management of patients with disorders of consciousness’, Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik 115–145.
- Pywell, S (2015) Potential legal implications of neuroimaging techniques for the clinical management of patients with disorders of consciousness. Jahrbuch für Wissenchaft und Ethik Band 19 (2014) (Yearbook of Science and Ethics), edited by Sturma, D, Honnefelder, L and Fuchs, M: 115–145. De Gruyter, ISSN 1430-9017 (print); 1613-1142 (online). No publisher’s data available; 394 ORO downloads between March 2016 and November 2021.
- Pywell, S (2015) The Influence of Catholic Doctrine on Medical Law when X’s Life Poses a Threat to Y’s Life. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion (2015) 4(3): 520–5. ISSN 2047-0770 (print); 0247-0789 (online).35 online views and 986 ORO downloads between July 2015 and November 2021, including 79 in October 2021.
- Pywell, S (2015) Casenote on PP v HSE  IEHC 622. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion (2015) 4(2): 327–8. ISSN 2047-0770 (print); 2047-0789 (online). 42 online views and 214 ORO downloads between November 2015 and November 2021, including 17 in October 2021
- Pywell, S (2005) Infant Vaccination: A Conflict of Imperatives. Contemporary Issues in Healthcare Law and Ethics, edited by Garwood-Gowers, A, Tingle, J and Wheat, K: 213–233. Elsevier Limited, ISBN 0-7506-8832-7.No metrics available.