Thursday, September 19, 2013

PBS "Brains on Trial" with Alan Alda; is the brain guilty, or the person?

Wednesday night, PBS stations aired a new episode of “Brains on Trial” with Alan Alda.
The program simulated a shooting case in New York where an 18-year old  (Jimmy Moran played by  Luke Murtha, with hair thinning too much for a teen) started a robbery and “accidentally” shot someone and permanently disabled her.

The docudrama looked at the brains of teens playing simulated video games driving and found that they take more chances and “fail to see around corners” when they are with peers.  The brain does not completely wire until about age 25.  The brains scans were done at Vanderbilt in Tennessee.

Psychopaths have low activity in certain areas of the brain.

The broadcast raised questions of whether the “person” is on trail or the brain.

The defendant winds up with a lenient 12-year sentence.  The judge talks like he is compassionate.  

The WETA link is here. The PBS link is here

The discussion of neuroscience seems timely and disturbing, because James Holmes (perpetrator of the Aurora CO shootings) had been a neuroscience doctoral student, as if to unravel his own brain.
An important issue would be impulse control, particularly when the person has not read society’s signals on what are acceptable and unacceptable things to say or “blurt out” in a public place.

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