About the Book

Law and Neuroscience is the first coursebook to cover the newly emerging field that explores both the promise within and the limitations of the intersection of these two disciplines.


New techniques for discovering brain function (and dysfunction) have developed at a remarkable rate. The growth in brain-scanning methods has commensurately increased efforts to introduce neuroscientific evidence in civil and criminal courts, and to use neuroscientific evidence in a number of other legal and policy contexts.

This book has four main purposes:

  1. to introduce readers to how brain science is (and is not) already being used in a number of legal contexts;
  2. to provide a user-friendly foundation for understanding how the human brain works, and how new techniques are being used to study, monitor and manipulate the brain;
  3. to examine pathways by which neuroscience may aid, or harm, the legal system; and
  4. to help students think critically about the present status and future possibilities of the law/neuroscience intersection.

The book includes engaging, informative, and provocative excerpts from cases, commentary, scientific articles, and news accounts. Dispersed through each chapter are notes and questions designed to challenge, provoke, inform, and inspire.

Book Structure

The book has five main parts, described below. Each chapter begins with vivid examples to galvanize interest and to highlight key features of legal relevance. The balance of each chapter then explores issues arising from consideration of the opening example.

Students and Professors alike will find Law and Neuroscience to be accessible and user-friendly. No science background is assumed or required. The book will appear in traditional hard-copy, but is simultaneously being developed for cross-platform use to incorporate multimedia content and to enable e-reader and tablet capabilities. The book’s companion web site will provide, for registered users, the largest available compendium of neurolaw resources – including thousands of links, organized by topic and sub-topic, to law and neuroscience materials.

The five parts of the book are organized as follows:

Part I surveys law and neuroscience broadly, in order to spark interest, provide an overview of topics to be covered, and to begin raising salient issues. It introduces the high-profile case of a man who, after killing his wife, mounted a “brain defect” insanity defense rooted in modern brain-imaging methods. Two subsequent cases involve the adolescent brain, illustrating some of the many challenges the legal system increasingly encounters when deciding how neuroscientific findings should affect culpability and punishment.

Part II introduces the fundamental conceptual issues that permeate the field, such as: the sometimes contentious relationship between law and science; the challenging relationships between mind, brain, and behavior; and the evidentiary issues that law must consider when confronted with scientific evidence that, while advancing, remains limited in many important ways.

Part III provides the basic tools at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, and law. It introduces: the fundamentals of brain organization and function; approaches to studying the brain, including brain-imaging technology; and the promise and limitations of these approaches. An appendix presents readers with a detailed primer on how to read and understand a brain imaging study.

Part IV delivers the core content, where faculty and students will spend most of their time during the course. Core themes include: “The Injured Brain” (as encountered through chapters on Brain Death, Brain Injury, and Pain and Distress); “The Thinking and Feeling Brain” (addressed through chapters on Memory, Emotions, Lie Detection, and Judging); and “The Developing and Addicted Brain” (explored through chapters on Adolescent Brains, Addicted Brains, and Mental Health).

Part V explores topics at the forefront of neurolaw’s future, such as challenges for the legal system raised by technologies that can enhance cognitive function, enable artificial intelligence, and provide brain-machine interfaces for the healthy and disabled alike.

Online Chapters

In addition to those printed chapters, a series of electronic-only chapters will be made available on topics such as:

  • Neuroethics
  • International Neurolaw
  • Neuroprediction
  • Psychopathy
  • Coercion and Drugs
  • Behavioral Genetics
  • Neuroeconomics

Smaller modules are also being developed to cover: The Death PenaltyThe Insanity Defense, and Impulsive and Risky Decision-Making.

Teacher’s Manual

A Teacher’s Manual provides chapter-by-chapter guidance on how to teach the materials.

Professors who are considering using the book for a class can receive instructions on how to download the Teacher’s Manual by simply emailing Sarah Grove at sarah.e.grove@vanderbilt.edu.