Launch of the Australian Neurolaw Database

8 December 2015

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Please join us for the launch of the Australian Neurolaw Database - a research collaboration between Macquarie University and Sydney Law School, at 5.30pm on Tuesday 8 December 2015. The data base will be opened by Justice Monika Schmidt of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Advances in neuroscience have in recent decades, yielded unprecedented access to the structures and mechanisms of living human brains. The emerging science promises to help us understand how our brains create behavior, emotions, capacities and mental states, and provides a new evidence base for courts in answering questions such as: Was this person injured in a way the law recognizes?; Did the wrongdoer act intentionally? Did this person have capacity? Injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which were once thought to be uncompensable 'emotional trauma' have recently been acknowledged by courts to be bodily injuries for which damages could be claimed, thanks to evidence from neuroscience. Criminal sentences have been reduced because of evidence of the effects of brain damage caused by dementia, Parkinson's disease, accidents and so on. And end-of-life decisions have been informed by neuroscience evidence of consciousness, while others have turned to neuroscience to help prove the existence of injuries such as pain, and the life-long effects of childhood trauma. New possibilities for fMRI lie-detection have yet to be realized but are just one of the potential future uses of brain sciences in court. The use of new science also raises concerns about the reliability of emerging scientific evidence and its potential misapplications and prejudicial effects, particularly for people with disabilities.

Research from the United States indicates that the number of cases in the US involving neuro-scientific evidence doubled from 2006 to 2009, and since 2000, the number of English language law review articles including some mention of neuroscience has quadrupled.[1] But so far little was known about the use of neuroscience in Australian courts. The Australian Neurolaw Database seeks to address this.

Started by Macquarie University in 2011, and joined by the University of Sydney in 2015, the Australian Neurolaw Database contributes an Australian perspective to international research on the impact of neuroscience on the development of law and on the administration of justice. Hosted by Macquarie University, the data-base is a publicly available resource comprising a collection of Australian cases involving neuroscience evidence spanning crime, sentencing decisions, tort claims, professional regulation, testamentary capacity, end-of-life decisions making and more. The project has now collected upwards of 100 fully coded cases and will be continually updated, with contributions from the research team, as well as students and members of the public via a wiki feature. The project is compatible with international collections including a US database under development at the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. The Australian Neurolaw Database is looking to partner with international projects in the next phase of the project, to develop an integrated international research database for neurolaw.

Time: From 5.30pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, registration essential

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0248

Email: 3c0b445608454e1a034076123b252d5441680e3701483846