Cognitive Neuroscience and Law


Cognitive Neuroscience and Law offers an introduction to several important aspects of the study of the brain. Our cluster will include courses that include the basic principles of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemical processes, as well as a focus on the neurofunctionality of brain and language, including how the brain enables us to understand language, disorders of the brain that impair language comprehension, how individuals acquire and maintain their first and subsequent languages, and how recent advances in brain imaging technology have improved our ability to understand the relationship of brain and language. In addition, our cluster will study the intersection of law and neuroscience; how recent advances in understanding and studying the brain have affected issues fundamental to the legal system, such as criminal intent, insanity, and truthfulness. This cluster should appeal to anyone curious about how the brain is structured, how it works, how we study it, how it produces and comprehends language, and how our understanding of the brain influences our judgments on issues of legal responsibility for our actions.


Seminar: Linguistics 216FS.01/Neuroscience 116FS.01/Russian 216FS.01 — Neuroscience and Human Language (NS, SS)

Edna Andrews, Professor of Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, Chair of Linguistics Program, Director of FOCUS Program

The relationship of brain and language is explored through a variety of methodologies and approaches, including studies of first and second language acquisition across cultures, multilingualism, language disorders, and imaging studies contributing to understanding current neurobiological, neurophysiological and neurolinguistic perspectives of representation of language in the brain. Other topics considered in this course include the relationship of memory systems to language acquisition, maintenance and loss, the role of language and memory in the construction of identity at the individual and group levels. Readings and case studies will focus on the latest theoretical contributions to the field, as well as classical contributions from the 20th century, including Vygotsky, Luria, Sacks, Kosslyn, Lieberman, Ojemann, Fabbro, Paradis, and Dowling. 

Seminar: Linguistics 212FS.01/Public Policy 250FS — Law, Ethics and Responsibility (EI, STS, SS)

Michael Newcity, Deputy Director, Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies; Research Associate Professor, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Examines the intersection of law and neuroscience, including the use of neuroimaging to determine if a witness is telling the truth; the implications of neuroscience for determining the mental competency of defendants, the insanity defense, the imposition of punishment on defendants. Considers the extent to which recent advances in brain science cause us to reevaluate fundamental legal concepts of "intent," "insanity," and responsibility; the ways in which neuroscience may be applied to these and related issues; and the inherent limitations and incongruities of applying brain science to legal questions.

Seminar: Linguistics 190FS.02/ Romance Studies 190FS.02 — Cognition, Identity and Linguistic Human Rights (SS, CCI, EI)

Liliana Paredes, Associate Professor of the Practice of Spanish and Director of the Spanish Language Program

The notion of identity is explored with respect to the cognitive or mental processes that guide social interaction. In light of these mental processes, in this course we will examine how people negotiate identity, particularly in situations of linguistic discrimination. As part of the scope of this course we will also study from a cognitive and social perspective how people adjust their cultural competence in situations of multiculturalism and multilingualism, where they speak a minority language. Acculturation will be another topic considered for discussion. Within this framework of studies, we will look at linguistic rights and cultural and minority rights; all in connection to the right of maintaining one’s identity as well as sustaining human rights in general. Readings and case studies will focus mostly on situations involving Spanish and languages in contact with Spanish.

Seminar: Neuroscience 153FS/ Public Policy 185FS — Drugs and the Law (SS)

Nicole Schramm-Sapyta, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Intoxicating and addictive drugs have been part of human culture for millennia. A small molecule, such as alcohol, cocaine, or heroin, can dramatically change the behavior of someone who takes it. This course will begin by examining the mechanisms by which drugs of abuse affect the brain and decision-making on the individual level. We will then examine how drug use affects families and society as a whole. Finally, we will explore society’s varied reactions to drug use in terms of attitudes, policies, and laws. We will examine the perspectives of the criminal justice system, taxpayers, drug users, treatment counselors, and others. The class will consist of lectures, discussions, guest speakers, and media presentations.

Faculty Director

Edna Andrews
Edna Andrews
  • Director of FOCUS Programs
  • Professor of Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology
  • Nancy & Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies
  • Chair of Linguistics Program
  • Director of Center for Slavic and Eurasian Studies
321B Languages Building
Campus Box: 
(919) 660-3142, (919) 660-3140