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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Neuroscience and the Law (LAWS10176)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course introduces students to the main legal and regulatory issues that are raised by advances in neuroscience, with a focus on brain imaging. Students will acquire a basic background in neuroscience and the ability to critically evaluate claims made about the potential of this research to change the administration of justice. Analysing the actual or proposed use of neuroscience in legal contexts, ranging from fMRI as a device for lie detection to questions of our understanding of traditional legal concepts such as intent and responsibility. The course will discuss both descriptive questions ¿ can neuroscience change the way we evaluate the credibility of a witness, the neutrality of a juror, or the clam of a victim to be in pain? Secondly, it will look at the normative dimension, and analyse if there are ethical, legal or regulatory objections that can be raised against the use of neuroscience in the justice system. The second main theme of this course is the regulatory issues raised by neuroscience. The aim is to gain a sound understanding of the existing legal regulatory framework of neuroscience, and then to systematically explore if legal change is needed to maximise the benefits and minimise the dangers of this scientific paradigm. This will include the regulation of its use in legal settings such as the law of evidence, but also suggested uses outside the law that raise legal issues such as brain enhancement technologies, neuroadvertising and manipulation of memory.
Course description Indicative teaching programme

1) Historical introduction to neuroscience and law
2) Neuroscience for Lawyers 1: basic concepts in fmri
3) Neurosicence for lawyers 2: researching issues in neuroscience
4) Fmri, lie detection and the law of evidence
5) Neuroscience of pain: issues in the law of delict
6) Responsibility , mental illness and free will 1
7) Responsibility, mental illness and free will 2: predicting evil
8) Scanning the legal mind: what neuroscience tells us about legal thinking
9) Regulating neuroscience
10) Emerging issues in neuroscience and law (topical problems, e.g. neuro-enhancement and the law; memory manipulation and the law
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Knowledge and Sources of Law:
    An advanced knowledge and understanding of the core of evidence law as it pertains to neuroscientific evidence in court, covering jurisdictions of Scotland, England the US and Germany, with examples from other countries as cases arise. The comparative-legal approach will be supported by the schools involvement in the European network for law and neuroscience, and is particularly important to enable students to assess a range of possible legal solutions to problems shared by many jurisdictions
    - an advanced knowledge of the jurisprudential, scientific and legal-doctrinal debate regarding the concept of mens rea, free will, deliberative action and their relation to punishment
    - an advanced understanding of the ethical, social and political consequences of the use of neuroscience in legal settings for controversial topics such as assessing dangerousness in sentencing decisions or parole hearings, identification of sexual deviance is people deemed at risk, or the use on children to predict needs for early intervention
    - an ability to critically analyse proposals for law reform in the respective legal fields, and an ability to identify gaps in the reform agenda that need addressing
    - an ability to engage with contemporary legal and policy debates on neuro-enhancement
  2. Subject-specific Skills:
    - interpretation of scientific expert statements of the type practitioners may encounter in litigation
    - interpretation of the visual and numerical data in these reports
    - to enhance students¿ ability to locate, interpret and synthesise relevant materials from both primary and secondary sources, from both law and neuroscience, and to form critical opinions about the quality and reliability of this material.
    - an ability to use relevant online resources, such as web of science or DPLP to identify research outputs form non-traditional and traditional sources, and to analyse the meta data (citation indices etc) that assist non-experts in the relevant sciences to make judgements of trustworthiness and reliability.
    - to think critically about the limits of legal regulation and propose ides for law reform or alternative models of regulation, and to argue their respective benefits and disadvantages
  3. General Transferable Intellectual Skills:
    - statistical skills, in particular Bayesian statistics, to evaluate the strength of neuroscientific evidence
    - ability to communicate with communities of experts other than lawyers, and to communicate legal ideas across subject boundaries.
    - ability to interpret highly visual data such as neuroimages, to the extend needed to communicate with experts or jurors in a case.
    - evaluative and critical reasoning;
    - creative thinking;
    - an ability to articulate, sustain and defend a line of argument, clearly and concisely, in both written and oral form;
    - an ability to consider arguments for and against a proposition in a ¿balanced¿ manner
    - ability to use competently computer assisted communication tools, including
    visualisation tools, such as PowerPoint and graphic programs.
  4. Key Personal Skills:
    - Written and oral skills necessary to deliver the above
    - Group working and interaction
    - Intellectual development through interdisciplinary engagement

  5. Subject-specific Legal and Ethical Values:
    - a sound understanding of questions of research ethics, especially scientific research on vulnerable communities, and an understanding how these ethical issues impact on science communication.
    - autonomy
    - critical self-reflection
    - consideration of others
    - academic integrity

Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Burkhard Schafer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2035
Course secretaryMs Abby Donnelly
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