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Neuroscience & Society

The ethical, legal and clinical implications of neuroscience research

Neuroscience & Society will feature leading national and international academics and practitioners in an interdisciplinary program addressing multiple themes related to neuroscience research.

Neuroscience & Society: Lecture & Conference

Lecture: Thursday 14 September, Sydney Law School

Speaker:  Katrina Sifferd, Elmhurst College, USA

Neuroscientific evidence has been offered in criminal courts to prove certain offenders are partially or fully excused from criminal responsibility. I will argue that neuroscientific data is relevant to the capacity responsibility of certain classes of offenders. Contra Morse, we do have some idea how the brain grounds the capacities necessary for understanding legal and moral rules, as well as volitional control; thus neuroscience can provide evidence that some groups of offenders have diminished capacity to commit a crime. This is the case with juveniles. However, work in the neuroscience of psychopathy does not indicate that as a class psychopaths suffer from diminished capacity. Therefore a diagnosis of psychopathy may be irrelevant to criminal responsibility.

About the speaker

Katrina Sifferd holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of London, King's College, and is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Elmhurst College. After leaving King's, Katrina held a post-doctoral position as Rockefeller Fellow in Law and Public Policy and Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College.

Before becoming a philosopher, Katrina earned a Juris Doctorate and worked as a senior research analyst on criminal justice projects for the National Institute of Justice. Katrina is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on criminal responsibility, reduction, folk psychology and law, and punishment. She is currently writing a book called The Responsible Brain with William Hirstein and Ty Fagan. The book project is funded by a grant from the Templeton Foundation on the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control.

Time: 5.30 - 7pm

Venue:   Sydney Law School, Law Foyer, level 2, New Law School Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown, The University of Sydney

Click here to register for the lecture with Katrina Sifferd on Thursday 14 September at Sydney Law School.

Almost twenty years since the "Decade of the Brain", governments are investing heavily in large global efforts to map the human brain and identify the neurobiological basis of thought and behaviour. These initiatives include the US BRAIN Initiative, the European Human Brain Project, the China Brain Project, andthe Australian Brain Initiative. Developments in neuroscience are promising to improve our ability to treat or prevent mental illness, neurological disorders, and cognitive decline, and mitigate the harms of criminal behaviour.

This burgeoning area of neuroscience research raises critical ethical, legal, and social challenges that have been recognised by the integration of neuroethical and neurolegal research within these initiatives. How might these developments in neuroscience impact Australian society?

Neuroscience & Society will feature leading national and international academics and practitioners in an interdisciplinary program addressing themes including:

  • Ageing and dementia
  • The developing brain
  • Disability and mental health
  • Disorders of self control
  • Moral cognition and moral technologies (e.g. nudges, sensor society)
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning

 Confirmed international speakers include:

  • Prof Katrina Sifferd, Faculty of Philosophy, Elmhurst College (USA)
  • Brian Earp, Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, Oxford University (UK)
  • Dr Katy de Kogel, Ministry of Security and Justice, The Netherlands (via videolink)

Neuroscience & Society will also officially launch the Australian Neuroethics Network, a collection of leading researchers and practitioners examining the implications of neuroscience for Australia.Become part of this important Australian initiative.

Registration and program details will be released shortly. Watch this space! Enquiries may be emailed to or

Dates and venues:

14 September 2017 - Sydney Law School

15 September 2017 - Macquarie University

Neuroscience and Society is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function Neuroethics Program, the Centre for Agency Values and Ethics at Macquarie University, and the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre.

Professional Learning and Community Engagement