Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7, 311-318 (April 2006) | doi:10.1038/nrn1887

Science and societyNeuroscience and legal determination of criminal responsibility

Nigel Eastman1 & Colin Campbell2  About the authors


Neuroscience is increasingly identifying associations between biology and violence that appear to offer courts evidence relevant to criminal responsibility. In addition, in a policy era of 'zero tolerance of risk', evidence of biological abnormality in some of those who are violent, or biological markers of violence, may be seized on as a possible basis for preventive detention in the interest of public safety. However, there is a mismatch between questions that the courts and society wish answered and those that neuroscience is capable of answering. This poses a risk to the proper exercise of justice and to civil liberties.

Author affiliations

  1. Nigel Eastman is at St George's, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK.
  2. Colin Campbell is at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK.

Correspondence to: Nigel Eastman1 Email:


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