Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and professor of physics at Virginia Tech, was among leading scholars in the world in science, law, policy, and medicine speaking at the Sackler Scientific Forum on Neuroscience and the Law.

The March 2-3 forum in Irvine, Calif., was sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London to discuss how discoveries about the human brain from neuroscience can inform legal systems. 

Montague’s work represents the leading insights from analysis of human brain function in decision-making in conditions, including psychopathologies and aberrant human behaviors. He spoke on his work that was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation’s Neuroscience and Law initiative, where he has used human functional brain imaging along with computational approaches in a unique way to precisely measure how peoples’ brains perform during social interactions with others and during decision in making in health and with underlying psychopathologies. In the course of these studies, Montague and his colleagues invented the field of computational psychiatry. 

According to Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Director Michael Friedlander, “Professor Montague has revolutionized the approach to understanding how the human brain computes, decides,  and acts, resulting in a wide range of attributes that we attribute to our very being. His ingenious design of experiments that probe fundamental aspects of human behavior coupled with his invention of the new technology of hyperscanning, where multiple functional brain scanning can be carried out on multiple individuals at sites across the world simultaneously, is providing unprecedented insights into cognition and decision-making within and between people. This work not only has immense potential for providing a deeper understanding of human neuropsychiatric disorders but also can contribute to informing policy.” 

Friedlander added, “The Sackler Forum on Neuroscience and the Law is an outstanding example of how this important work can help guide not only our medical decision-making but also provide important insights to help construct rational policies and programs to increase effectiveness, reliability, and fairness of our legal systems. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Montague at the [Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute] as one of the world’s key thought leaders and innovators in this important area at the interface of the physical, biomedical, and social sciences.”

Judges, legal scholars, policy makers, and neuroscientists spent two days in an intensive workshop that considered evidence from neuroscience research that can inform all aspects of the legal systems in western society. Learn more at the National Academies forum site.


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