Neurolaw and Neurodiversity

Nedbels is a project that lays ‘between law and science’. It has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie-Curie Grant.

Nebdels has opened a new door for the discussion around neurolaw and steered it closer towards the movement of neurodiversity. Neurodiversity communicates the idea that diversity in human neurological conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome is as desirable for a well-functioning society as biodiversity is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. This line of thought could have implications for the legal system as how we interpret fundamental principles like the legality principle, whereby there is ‘no crime nor punishment without law’. However, for a crime to legally happen, both the physical action and the mental state, or intent, are needed. Often we see that people with intellectual disabilities seem to be stigmatised by law as being legally incapacitated. But what if the new technology of brain scanning showed that some disabilities are not disabilities but from part of a neurodiverse population?

This leads some to ask the question: are we on the verge of a neurolaw-driven legal revolution? A revolution in the legal treatment of responsibility might one day occur as the neurosciences and new brain-related technologies are set to dramatically transform the law in the coming decades. However, it is said that one should be careful in reducing brain flows in some cerebral regions, as captured by brain scans (fMRIs), to human experience. Though brain is a sine qua non for mind, we can agree that the mind is not reducible to brain. Studying and reproducing images of pain or disability on scans do not equate to the experience of the phenomenological feel. Some ‘cerebral blood oxygenation changes’ do not capture lived experiences of mental life.

Science can go a long way and certainly can have an impact on discrimination and inequality, but the growing field of neurolaw shall not fall into a reductionist interpretation. Our legal system is based on individualism, focusing on individual brain, even though there are robust evidence showing that socio-economic conditions are also causes of inequalities as well as primary determinants of patterns of violence and illegal behaviour. It is recommended that policymakers consider societal barriers as more pressing causes of inequalities and illegal behaviour than others (like brains).

> Read the report summaries and project details here.


Photo: the image displayed on this article was created by Vilmosvarga –