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In this module, Dr. Read Montague, an American neuroscientist, popular science author, and professor at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, describes how researchers are studying structure and connectivity in the human brain, what the data may tell us about criminal responsibility, and the impact that this research may have on the courts. He addresses the following questions:

  • What can neuroimaging tell us about capacity? To what extent can the data provide insight about an individual in specific circumstances versus general information about brain function?
  • Can scientists use neuroimaging data to provide evidence related to capacity or intent?
  • What does recent research show regarding legally defined mental states and their representation in distinct brain regions?
  • What sort of large-scale guidance can the data provide?


  • to broadly understand the approaches researchers are using to shed light on capacity and criminal responsibility
  • to appreciate the scope of what these data can contribute to legal policy

To learn more about Dr. Montague, click here.

Additional Resources:

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Report to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules regarding the proposal to amend Rule 12.2. Procedures governing court-ordered mental examinations are presented as they have been implemented in a sample of districts with extensive death penalty experience.

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