You’re an Adult. Your Brain, Not So Much.

Dec 31, 2016

By Carl Zimmer

Leah H. Somerville, a Harvard neuroscientist, sometimes finds herself in front of an audience of judges. They come to hear her speak about how the brain develops.

It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

Scientists like Dr. Somerville have learned a great deal in recent years. But the complex picture that’s emerging lacks the bright lines that policy makers would like.


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32 comments on “You’re an Adult. Your Brain, Not So Much.

  • The poet Wordsworth said, “The child is father to the man.”

    Fascinating research. Neurologists have known for decades that the brain does not mature ’til around age 25.
    Article: Leah H. Somerville, a Harvard neuroscientist, sometimes finds herself in front of an audience of judges. They come to hear her speak about how the brain develops.
    It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

    Inexplicably, the text implies that judges seek legal advice from neurologists about age requirements already fixed in statute. I believe the author meant to isolate capital cases, where minors (under the age of 18) may be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of first degree murder. No judge could disenfranchise a voter, revoke responsibility for a contract, or enlistment in military service for anyone who has reached the age of 18 based on irrelevant speculations about “brain maturity” derived from the MRI scan findings described in the article. Sloppy sensationalism required of popular media on science.



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  • Melvin #2
    Jan 1, 2017 at 2:13 am

    No judge could disenfranchise a voter, revoke responsibility for a contract, or enlistment in military service for anyone who has reached the age of 18 based on irrelevant speculations about “brain maturity” derived from the MRI scan findings described in the article.

    It does not occur to you that that neuroscience research might just demonstrate the need for reform of laws which were drafted in the absence of scientific evidence and absence of scientific knowledge?

    irrelevant speculations about “brain maturity” derived from the MRI scan findings described in the article.

    . . . and that the results of scientific research are NOT “irrelevant speculations”, (unless you have some expert evidence to the contrary!)
    The research shows a continuity of development, which has considerable implications for variations in the quality of judgements made by individuals at various ages under various conditions – along with the levels of responsibility they can reasonably be expected to cope with!
    I would have thought that (particularly in the light of Trump appointments) a proper evaluation of matching capabilities and mental stability, to responsibilities was a crucial issue for societies!

    Inexplicably, the text implies that judges seek legal advice from neurologists about age requirements already fixed in statute.

    There is nothing unusual in judges asking for testimony from expert witnesses on relevant topics.

    Sloppy sensationalism required of popular media on science.

    Sloppy casual dismissal of evidence, based on personal incredulity, misreading texts, or denial, is the sign of a closed mind which makes no effort to understand!

    @OP – link – But she does think it is important for the scientists to get a fuller picture of how the brain matures. Researchers need to do large-scale studies to track its development from year to year, she said, well into the 20s or beyond.

    It’s not enough to compare people using simple categories, such as labeling people below age 18 as children and those older as adults. “Nothing magical occurs at that age,” Dr. Somerville said.



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  • The research shows a continuity of development, which has considerable implications for variations in the quality of judgements made by individuals at various ages under various conditions – along with the levels of responsibility they can reasonably be expected to cope with!

    Taking your eyes off the specific research described and stipulating the general value of neurological variation between individuals and age groups, your statement has some truth. The fault lies with the claims made by the journalist and not the research. As mentioned, neuroscientists have known for decades that the human brain matures around age 25. Simply put, thoughtful people understand and take into account variations in the quality of judgements made by individuals at various ages and cut youthful impulsiveness and dysfunction considerable slack. But like the rest of us, Dr. Somerville herself admits she could not draw a clear line between maturity and immaturity based on the findings. Conflating sensational suggestions, the author implies at the outset that judges, legislatures and the electorate might reconsider legal age requirements for voting, informed consent, contractual responsibility and culpability for crimes based on small physiological differences measured by MRI scans in the normal brains of adolescents and young adults. In the U.S., the legal age of adulthood is 18 based on pragmatic legal criteria that incorporates the principle of equality under the law.

    Certainly, judges would consult with researchers to be familiarized with comprehensive up-to-date research in the field of “brain maturity” of young offenders. The specific research cited has general empirical value but little legal value.

    I suspect you are confusing the role of abnormal psychology – brain damage, impaired cognition, down syndrome, psychopathology, psychosis, personality disorders – in legal considerations of a person’s capacity or responsibility before the law; confusing mitigating conditions with the normal range of brain maturity measured by this research. The author invites the reader to imagine a defense attorney rising in court to address a judge, “your honor my client has the chronological age of 20 but the mental maturity of a 16-year old as measured by this MRI brain scan.” I doubt if neurologists are prepared to claim credibility for this scenario while journalist are all too ready to inflame the mind of the public with provocative misleading hyperbole to keep them coming back for more.



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  • Melvin #4
    Jan 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    The research shows a continuity of development, which has considerable implications for variations in the quality of judgements made by individuals at various ages under various conditions – along with the levels of responsibility they can reasonably be expected to cope with!

    Taking your eyes off the specific research described and stipulating the general value of neurological variation between individuals and age groups, your statement has some truth.

    The key issue is the vast amount of progress which has been made in these sciences in the last decade, as the technology has opened new research opportunities.

    The fault lies with the claims made by the journalist and not the research. As mentioned, neuroscientists have known for decades that the human brain matures around age 25.

    Only vaguely! Recent research is adding detail. That is the point made in the article.

    Simply put, thoughtful people understand and take into account variations in the quality of judgements made by individuals at various ages and cut youthful impulsiveness and dysfunction considerable slack.

    Such general superficial observations can be made but while the article shows progress in identifying detail, it points out further work which is required to replace guesswork with evidenced answers.

    But like the rest of us, Dr. Somerville herself admits she could not draw a clear line between maturity and immaturity based on the findings.

    I thought the point was that the various processes in individual parts of the the brain, along with their inter connections matured as a continuous process, without clear-cut demarcation lines.

    In the U.S., the legal age of adulthood is 18 based on pragmatic legal criteria that incorporates the principle of equality under the law.

    Not really! It is based on guesswork and tradition, which is why other countries, also using guesswork and tradition, come up with different age frames.

    There is a clear difference in legislation relating alcohol.

    https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0388-alcohol-laws-state
    All [US] states prohibit providing alcohol to persons under 21, although states may have limited exceptions relating to lawful employment, religious activities, or consent by a parent, guardian, or spouse.

    My daughter surprised her colleagues at an office party when working during a gap-year in New York, because at the age of 21 she had an extensive knowledge of alcoholic drinks.

    This was because the legal age for buying drinks in England is 18, and at the age of 17 (while still at school), she had had a part-time evening and weekend job as a waitress in an Italian restaurant, where she had discussed a large range of Italian wines with the wine waiters during quiet periods.



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  • @#5 – The key issue is the vast amount of progress which has been made in these sciences in the last decade, as the technology has opened new research opportunities.

    http://www.nature.com/news/big-brain-projects-urged-to-aid-public-health-1.20958

    Major brain-mapping projects have multiplied in recent years, as neuroscientists develop new technologies to decipher how the brain works. These initiatives focus on understanding the brain, but the World Health Organization (WHO) wants to ensure that they work to translate their early discoveries and technological advances into tests and treatments for brain disorders.



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  • 7
    maria melo says:

    Inexplicably, the text implies that judges seek legal advice from
    neurologists about age requirements already fixed in statute.

    I guess you mean legal statute?
    Legislation about minors´s criminal brhaviour for instance (which I am familiar with) states obligation of personality evaluation before sentencing a minor, and only if the personalty of the minor requires education (controling impulses respecting others etc.) can he/she be sentenced accordingly. And sometimes minors commit a crime and the sentence is the most benevolent that can be because their “personality” don t require more measures.
    Just a small example that personality and methods of evaluating it (“scientific”) matters and the judge is not blind to it nor can be once that´s a legal procedure and the judge cannot omit. it from the sentence.



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  • Melvin #4
    Jan 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    The author invites the reader to imagine a defense attorney rising in court to address a judge, “your honor my client has the chronological age of 20 but the mental maturity of a 16-year old as measured by this MRI brain scan.” I doubt if neurologists are prepared to claim credibility for this scenario while journalist are all too ready to inflame the mind of the public with provocative misleading hyperbole to keep them coming back for more.

    I think it is far fetched to claim this exclusively on the basis of a brain scan, but it seems you are talking about – but fail to understand – this normal legal practice!

    https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/ustat/ustat0301-01.htm

    People with mental retardation in the U.S., currently estimated to number between 6.2 and 7.5 million, have historically been victimized both by their disability and by public prejudice and ignorance.8 In recent decades there have been significant gains in understanding the nature of the condition, in the provision of education and other services that meet the unique needs of those who are mentally retarded, and in the willingness of the public to accord them the respect and rights they deserve as human beings and citizens. Nevertheless, misunderstanding of the unique nature and implications of mental retardation remains widespread.
    When a person with mental retardation confronts the criminal justice system, they are uniquely unable to take advantage of legal safeguards and to protect their constitutional rights.

    For the lay person or non-specialist, the significance of a low I.Q. is often best communicated through the imprecise but nonetheless descriptive reference to “mental age.” When a person is said to have a mental age of six, this means he or she received the same number of correct responses on a standardized I.Q. test as the average six year old child.

    · Earl Washington, who confessed to a murder he did not commit, has an I.Q. of 69 and a mental age of ten. That is, he cannot perform intellectual tasks beyond the capacity of a typical ten-year-old.
    · Jerome Holloway, who death sentence was ultimately reduced in the face of overwhelming evidence that he had been unable to comprehend the proceedings against him, has an I.Q. of 49 and a mental age of seven.

    provocative misleading hyperbole

    This sort of rhetoric when applied to factual explanations, really is rather silly!



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  • 9
    maria melo says:

    legal criteria that incorporates the principle of equality under the
    law

    The legal criteria for application of Law I think is equity, which states that the judge might better not apply rigid judgmental principles but evaluating each and every case per se, which means that sometimes a criminal under certain conditions can even be absolved from punishment.



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  • From the link to the commentary by Dr. Somerville: Thus, a key challenge to classifying maturity based on structural indices is that it is ambiguous when an adult reference reaches a steady set-point—it depends on the type of anatomical measurement and the lobe or brain region selected. Moreover, it is unclear whether there is even a steady set-point at all

    Dr, Somerville calls brain maturity a “conundrum,” an ambiguous process moving on an ambiguous continuum, a shape shifting progressive tangle of neurological structures and “connectivity” that may not have a steady set-point at all. She remarks that extensive research on brain development up to age 22 and likely up to age 30 and beyond fails to establish a boundary for brain maturation.

    I’ve taken on board the exceptions that Maria and Alan4 cite and the discretion that Judges are empowered to make in lenient sentencing of youthful offenders, especially minors, based principally on considerations of immaturity pertinently and proportionately weighed with other mitigating circumstances including current neuroscientific findings of brain development in adolescence and young adulthood.

    The author of the article extrapolating from Dr. Somerville’s review makes a sensational claim: It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

    The first question may be obviated by the European solution: a ban on capital punishment. The other questions are fatuous. Imagine telling an 18 year old she couldn’t sign a car loan agreement or a rental agreement without an arbitrarily defined “older adult” cosigning because her brain was too immature to give informed consent? Imagine a 19-year old turned away from a polling place because her brain was too “emotional” to make an informed vote.

    Dr. Somerville surely has her sympathies about when and how the law as it stands should be applied in particular cases and ideas about how the law should be changed to align with her preferred enforcement of justice, but one thing is for sure. Neuroscience isn’t supplying any answers to the rape trial of Brock Turner, a 20-year old Stanford University student and star performer on the swimming team: A recall effort against a California judge was announced on Monday in a sexual assault case at Stanford University that ignited public outrage after the defendant was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and his father complained that his son’s life had been ruined for “20 minutes of action” fueled by alcohol and promiscuity. And brain immaturity? (for the record I was deeply opposed to the “lenient” sentence.)



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  • Melvin

    When we invent/discover a medicine, we do not then give it to everyone regardless so, how about, if we leave the youngsters alone that have used other parts of their ambiguous brains to get to the right conclusion and the right place. We concentrate on those that have not and act like responsible adults when sentencing them because that even more ambiguous moral act can be separated from the dilemma of one size fits all. We can then take immature minds that may still have some plasticity left and create a system where we can starve the criminal world or, at least put it on a better diet. The judges can predict what complications and presidents that of course will be set and will have to be vigilant.



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  • Melvin #13
    Jan 1, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    The author of the article extrapolating from Dr. Somerville’s review makes a sensational claim:

    It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote?
    Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

    The other questions are fatuous.

    Really?????

    Imagine telling an 18 year old she couldn’t sign a car loan agreement or a rental agreement without an arbitrarily defined “older adult” cosigning because her brain was too immature to give informed consent? Imagine a 19-year old turned away from a polling place because her brain was too “emotional” to make an informed vote.

    The issues are not “fatuous”, and there is no need to imagine or make up an answer! In most countries there is legislation on the record, which can be consulted! (see my post @#12)

    http://www.housingandsupport.org.uk/deputyship-and-lasting-power-of-attorney#How%20does%20this%20relate%20to%20people%20with%20learning%20disabilities?

    The OPG’s leaflet on LPA’s provides more details of the criteria for determining a person’s capacity to make an LPA.

    However, some people with learning disabilities may, (by the nature of their disability), lack legal capacity, (i.e. sufficient understanding in all circumstances to enter into a valid and enforceable contract and therefore are unable to make an LPA). If they have property or a large amount of money the Court of Protection will consider the appointment of a Deputy.

    What is Mental or Legal Capacity?

    Legal capacity is the term used to describe the ability of someone to enter into a legally binding contract and matters such as wills or LPA’s.

    The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has laid down the legal framework in which questions of capacity should be determined. There is also substantial practice guidance set out under the Act to help in any dealings where people’s capacity is in question, or where they have no legal capacity. The Act takes, as its starting point, an assumption that everyone has sufficient capacity to deal with financial affairs and personal issues, unless there is evidence to the contrary.



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  • 16
    maria melo says:

    The author of the article extrapolating from Dr. Somerville’s review
    makes a sensational claim: It’s a subject on which many legal
    questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to
    death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give
    informed consent?

    I see the news this is not an expert´s article, but news that seek to inform the audience with objectivity, so I don´t see there “any” opinion whatsoever and nothing but FACTS, so there cannot be any extrapolation either: it literally means the reported facts.
    In this case, the aim of the journalist is to clear, not to distort the news.
    Well, I literally experience judges asking experts some crutial expertise´s questions they really cannot answer, but then the experts answer they cannot answer in those terms (and that´s kind of fuuny to me).



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  • Carl Zimmer from the article: Scientists like Dr. Somerville have learned a great deal in recent years. But the complex picture that’s emerging lacks the bright lines that policy makers would like. “Oftentimes, the very first question I get at the end of a presentation is, ‘O.K., that’s all very nice, but when is the brain finished? When is it done developing?’” Dr. Somerville said. “And I give a very nonsatisfying answer.” Dr. Somerville laid out the conundrum in detail in a commentary published on Wednesday in the journal Neuron.

    After re-reading the article I recommend that everyone interested read the “conundrum” link highlighted in blue to a commentary by Somerville herself. Her review of research covers findings in the field of brain maturity when the human brain can be said to attain developmental stages that approximate “adult references.” She admits that such “steady points” are elusive, variably defined, and perhaps opaque but that neurological functions may be measured in developmental stages through adolescence and at least up to age 30. If I infer with some accuracy, neuroscientists are looking for empirical neurological evidence of “adulthood” approximately defined. In layman’s language the adult brain should be able to concentrate for prolonged periods on cognitive activities better than the adolescent brain prone to distractions, anything from loud noises (threats) to “emotional” impulses where short-term gratification takes precedence over rational goal-oriented projects. That’s about it with one important caveat. Nowhere does Somerville mention mentally retarded or brain-damaged subjects. She never mentions the handy but tenuous concept of “mental age” referencing psychometric variables like I.Q. among subjects in this article because the experiments focus onto developmental studies of the normal human brain with respect to brain maturity through the chronological stages of life. Brain maturity measured by neurological structures and function in MRI scans, Somerville admits, is a tough subject to tackle. With all due respect to ongoing research, Somerville riddles her commentary with confessions approaching total befuddlement:

    For the current discussion, the key point is that there is no single progression that encompasses functional
    maturation. Neural activity intensifies and reduces, varies quantitatively and qualitatively, in linear and nonlinear ways that are both linked to—and independent of—behavioral differences across development. Each of these patterns reflects developmental progress, but the wide range of ‘‘journeys’’ prohibits a simple
    definition of what emerging brain functional maturity looks like.




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  • Carl Zimmer interviewed Dr. Somerville for this article and, in my view, probably interpreted cues from his subject both with some accuracy and with some ill-considered sensationalism (reference cited). Somerville asserts with some truth that neuroscience has influenced policy changes in laws applied to juvenile defendants. The U.S. has banned capital punishment for juveniles and those incapacitated by mental retardation and insanity legally defined. The kind of “brain wave” pure neuroscience that Somerville practices has had far less influence than the article pumps up. Psychology and other Social Sciences (Somerville notes), along with Psychiatry and changing public norms have combined to become the preponderant dynamic for differential treatment of youthful offenders according to widely adopted “rational and humane” standards.

    Brain maturity measured by the analysis and synthesis of data gathered from MRI scans per se provide little input into making law or changing law concerning legal concepts of adulthood. By Somerville’s own admission, the data cannot provide the definitive criteria that law requires. The observation that by some measure, the brain of an 18 year old, a 25 year-old, a 30 year old may not be “fully mature” compared to the measure of other brains in the peer group does not in itself answer any legal questions. (Certainly brain damage, personality disorders, low I.Q., and, more generally, impulsive emotion, impaired judgement and prior behavior will continue to be taken into account consistent with legal precedent when prosecuting cases involving young defendants [indeed defendants of any age]). Societies cannot function without a law that sets a specific age of adulthood where the public knows that everyone will be held accountable to the same rights and responsibilities recorded in statutes (allowing for limited exceptions). This principle of social cohesion is called “equality under the law.” Democratic governments are free to adjust the legal age of majority within a small utilitarian time frame -say 18 to 21- but adjusting the legal status of anyone beyond the age fixed by consensus, especially conferring privileged immunity on the basis of individual brain maturity measured by MRI scans is not only absurd on the face of it but a recipe for social chaos.



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  • 19
    maria melo says:

    Carl Zimmer interviewed Dr. Somerville for this article

    I mentioned before, it is not an article, but NEWS.

    I don´t think Carl Zimmer interviewed Dr. Somerville for this “article”, it looks like he himself has attended some lecture where Dr. Somerville and other neurologists were before an audience of judges, and Carl Zimmer a science reporter is reporting the news.

    Of course, the review must be made by another neurologist, not laypeople, I can read but cannot say too much about it as a layperson.



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  • maria melo #19
    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:55 am

    . . . . has attended some lecture where Dr. Somerville and other neurologists were before an audience of judges, and Carl Zimmer a science reporter is reporting the news.

    I think it is work mentioning, that Carl Zimmer is not just any newspaper writer, but is a well known expert biologist himself!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Zimmer

    Carl Zimmer (born 1966) is a popular science writer and blogger who has specialized in the topics of evolution and parasites. He has authored many books and contributes science essays to publications such as The New York Times, Discover, and National Geographic. He is a fellow at Yale University’s Morse College.

    Besides his popular science writing, Zimmer also gives frequent lectures, and has appeared on many radio shows, including National Public Radio’s Radiolab, Fresh Air and This American Life. He has won many awards, including the 2007 National Academies Communication Award, a prize for science communication[4] from the United States National Academy of Sciences, for his wide-ranging coverage of biology and evolution in newspapers, magazines and his blog.



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  • maria melo #19: Of course, the review must be made by another neurologist, not laypeople, I can read but cannot say too much about it as a layperson.

    Then the question arises why we are actually “saying so much” about it on this thread if we are merely clueless laypeople who should keep their silence. In my view the subject as presented is not that complicated to understand:

    Carl Zimmer quoting Leah H. Somerville: Dr. Somerville, on the other hand, said she was reluctant to offer specific policy suggestions based on her brain research. “I’m still in the learning stage, so I’d hesitate to call out any particular thing,” she said. But she does think it is important for the scientists to get a fuller picture of how the brain matures. Researchers need to do large-scale studies to track its development from year to year, she said, well into the 20s or beyond. It’s not enough to compare people using simple categories, such as labeling people below age 18 as children and those older as adults

    At the outset Zimmer affirmed: It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

    In my view there is a tension between Somerville’s “reluctance” to offer policy suggestions from ambiguous findings in this field of neurological research and Zimmer’s assertion that “It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend.” The reader is confused about differential assessments of maturity heretofore based on widely observed behavioral/emotional differences between “youth” and the statutory legal age of adulthood, determined by social consensus, that clearly demarcates adult responsibility before the law. Somerville expresses the common sense inference that most 20-year olds lack the maturity of most 25-year olds, or conversely, in some cases, a 30-year old may be seen to demonstrate the immaturity of a teenager but her specialty compels her ambition to elevate MRI scan findings to precise levels of brain maturity measurements consistent with some developmental standard of adult brain maturation. Implied in her own commentary, it may be impossible to accomplish this because of the absence of scientific criteria for measuring the fathomless ambiguity of virtually infinite interacting variables. In layman’s language identical to the language Somerville uses, neuroscience doesn’t know what it’s “searching for” in a pool of normal brain subjects regarding brain maturity, has no definitive criteria, or utilitarian legal application.

    Zimmer, firing up Somerville’s enthusiasm, leaves the reader with a befuddled mix of ambiguous conjecture, nonetheless suggesting that with further study neuroscience can help solve “legal questions” about the age of adulthood, perhaps instituting a sliding scale from around age 16 to 30 (and beyond) that determines variable liability under the law based on individual brain maturity measured by MRI brain scans. The research is fascinating in itself but lacks pragmatic criteria that can be transferred to the legal arena. Zimmer and Somerville perform a dance that confuses and misleads from start to finish.

    (Note: Without parsing abstruse semantics about differences between “news” and “articles,” Zimmer includes a link to Somerville’s commentary that in turn offers links to her cited sources. You may well be right that Zimmer never interviewed Somerville directly, though journalists often contact their quoted subjects, but in any event the “article” is considerably fleshed out by the linked commentary. I’ve suggested that everyone interested read it.)



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  • 22
    maria melo says:

    The author of the article extrapolating from Dr. Somerville’s review
    makes a sensational claim: It’s a subject on which many legal
    questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to
    death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give
    informed consent?

    The first question may be obviated by the European solution: a ban on
    capital punishment.

    You make very good points, I think developmental psychology could never give a so wide variation such as person may reach full moral discerniment from around 16 to 30 years old (a baby can give the first steps from 9 months-as me- to 14 years old) and guess the answer could not come only from MRI observation

    Yes of course you are absolutely right (Portugal was the first country to abolish death penalty for the record.)
    Just for fun, I sometimes think I must be an adult brain getting to decay as far as I am not patient to play, as my old dog.

    I aknowledged for the first time that young people (minors) may have not fullfiled their full moral discerniment not actually from neurologists or psychologists but actually from people whose job is related to Law.



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  • 24
    maria melo says:

    I think it is work mentioning, that Carl Zimmer is not just any
    newspaper writer, but is a well known expert biologist himself!

    Yes I was aware, although I was mentioning Carl Zimmer “just” as a science journalist, as Chip Walter for instance with who I am “familiar” once I bought the book”Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And Other Traits …”.
    Never bought a book from Carl Zimmer actually (actally there must be hundreds of books about evolution and hundreds of experts about everything, I lack time to read them all)



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  • 25
    maria melo says:

    Richard Dawkins once give a good suggestion, suggestiong the BBC science documentary, Episode 5 of David Eagleman’s series on The Brain: “Why do I need you?”

    http://www.pbs.org/the-brain-with-david-eagleman/episodes/why-do-i-need-you/

    This doccumentary which I watched gives a clue how to think human development of moral discerniment in young people for instance (in which experience has a fundamental role like in other aspects of logical thinking,) according to our philogenetic development by stages which should be rigorous to define scientifically. I guess moral developmental as category/stage, of our philogenetic process will never be defined by MRI alone.



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  • Sam Harris on “Free Will” Youtube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

    Perhaps the discussion transitions smoothly to neurological refutation of free will
    and the need to find logical alternatives to current practices based on misguided concepts of individual legal/moral responsibility.

    Sam Harris delivers an informed provocative summary of his short book Free Will in this lecture that answers some questions and raises many others. The man’s intellect is awesome and his public speaking superbly articulate. Enjoy if you are interested.



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  • Melvin #27

    Thanks Melvin. Great video. A must for Dan I think!

    Sam even gives us a live example of (22:50’ish) false accounting of why you did what you did when asked about the length of his new books in the Q&A at the end.



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  • @OP – link – But she does think it is important for the scientists to get a fuller picture of how the brain matures. Researchers need to do large-scale studies to track its development from year to year, she said, well into the 20s or beyond.

    It’s not enough to compare people using simple categories, such as labeling people below age 18 as children and those older as adults. “Nothing magical occurs at that age,” Dr. Somerville said.

    Indeed so! The progress is progressive over several years as this article from 2011 indicates!

    http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-new-view-of-the-teenage-brain-adaptation-is-job-1-201110013505

    Imaging studies of the teenage brain show that it undergoes a colossal makeover between ages 12 and 25. During this period, the brain doesn’t grow in size. Instead, it extensively rewires itself. Scientists once thought this reorganization meant that the adolescent brain was a work in progress, and the rewiring could account for teens’ inconsistency, their incomprehensible and terrifying (at least to adults) risk taking and recklessness, and their near-desperate need to be with peers.



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  • 32
    maria melo says:

    I guess nothing “magical” would happen either in my moral behaviour, despite my neuronal huge changes in adolescence-neuronal rewiring-, I would never offend a third person agressing and humiliating for instance, and nothing “magical” would change my personality and character concerning some moral aspects, let´s say from 10 do 14 and from 14 to 48 for instance.
    (I have in mind girls that agress and humilate, and even “torture”, from my job experience).



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