University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

The Neuroscience and Law Society seeks to foster discussions between neuroscience graduate students and law students on topics where the two fields intersect. We will use a journal club format to discuss relevant issues on the impact of neuroscience on legal matters by reviewing papers every two weeks. We also hope to invite experts in the field of neuroscience and law for lectures and panels to instruct individuals on the most recent developments in the field, and to provide students an opportunity to meet with these experts.

For more information or to join the mailing list, please contact Mona Sobhani ( or Chao Qi (

Upcoming Events for Spring 2013:.

Invited Speaker, Dr. Michael Koenigs (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison)

Wednesday, March 6th @ 12:30pm in Law Room 1 (at the law school)

Title: The neurobiology of psychopathy: Insights from brain imaging and implications for law

Summary: Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by remorseless and impulsive antisocial behavior. Given the significant societal costs of the recidivistic criminal activity associated with the disorder, there is a pressing need for more effective treatment strategies, and hence, a better understanding of the psychobiological mechanisms underlying the disorder. To this end, neuroscientists have begun to employ brain imaging in offender populations to identify the neurological deficits in psychopathy. Such research could have profound implications for the legal system—from questions of culpability to prospects for rehabilitation and likelihood of future offense.

Dr. Koenigs will present his recent brain imaging research on psychopathic prison inmates. These studies have associated psychopathy with abnormalities in neural circuits related to emotion regulation, moral judgment, reward processing, and attentional control. Moreover, Dr. Koenigs will discuss these findings in relation to his previous studies of brain-damaged neurological patients, which have shown that focal lesions involving lower prefrontal cortex result in social and affective decision-making deficits that are similar to those observed in psychopathy. Together, these findings suggest a neuropathophysiological basis of psychopathy.