At the center of contemporary political debate are the record numbers of migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. As these parents and children flee the trauma of violence in their native countries, they are now experiencing the trauma of navigating an increasingly hostile immigration system. What can neuroscience tell us about the effects of these traumatic experiences on the brains of the children and adults? And how might the neuroscience of trauma and brain development affect legal cases? Can advances in mobile neuroimaging provide practitioners with real-time brain evidence of trauma? Does neuroscience have a larger role to play in shaping our nation’s immigration policies?

On March 4, the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School convened a panel of scientists and lawyers to discuss on neuroscience, trauma, and justice.

Featured panelists:

– Charles Nelson, III, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Director of Research, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children’s Hospital

Cindy Zapata, Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School. Zapata led the 2018 HLS student trip to provide legal services to immigrant families separated in the Karnes Detention Center in Texas. In November 2018, she published an essay on that trip on the Harvard Law Clinical Blog, titled: “Heartbreak at the Border: Cindy Zapata on Her Trip to Karnes Detention Center.”

– Moderator: Francis X. Shen ’06, Ph.D., J.D., Executive Director, Harvard Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital and Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, Petrie-Flom Center in Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, Harvard Law School; Associate Professor of Law and McKnight Land-Grant Professor, University of Minnesota Law School. In Feb, Shen published “Trauma at the Border: Can Neuroscience Inform Legal Advocacy?”, in “Bill of Health.”

The event was part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital.