Cognitive neuroscience and law
The interaction between cognitive neuroscientists and the legal system has given rise to what is called “neurolaw”, a discipline that uses neuroscientific evidences to make importance decisions of legal value, truth telling, justice and punishment. For example, the advent of using chemical castration as punishment via administering anaphrodisiac drugs to sex offenders to reduce their libido which decreases their sexual urges is being done across various countries like India, U.S.A, U.K and Argentina.
However, it is imperative for neuroscientific researchers in India to move ahead from retribution and further explore the cause of committing such frivolous crimes. The goal should be to use neurocognitive research for easing the legal decision making process and planning effective penal codes which work towards incentives for good behaviour.
Neurolaw provides a wide scope for investigating the human cognition and behaviour in relation to the legal system, policies and societal goals that law seeks to promote. Neurolaw in the Indian courtrooms could potentially help in using scientific measures of truth telling, memory assessments, dealing with cases of drug addiction, impulsive violence, criminal behaviours, and financial predations, while also gaining insight into personality traits like trustworthiness, respect for individuals and property, self-control and self-awareness. (O’Hara, 2008).
The law has forever struggled with the challenge of false memory/ implanted memory, i.e. memory which is untrue and effected by emotional content, or the impact of the experience itself, but is honestly held by the witness. Research consistently suggests that victim and eye witness testimony is often affected by the limits of our awareness of external stimuli. (Ortinski & Meador 2004, Schacter et al. 2008). Therefore, to effectively deal with these challenges, neurolaw in India could focus on developing methods to distinguish such false memories by either using pharmacological interventions which can enhance memory (Klaming & Vedder 2009) or even supress it during hurtful and painful experiences. (Kolber 2006).
Neuroimaging techniques like electroencephalography have been previously used as lie detectors to detect excitability in the brain during recognition exercises of known locations or hearing known facts as opposed to experiencing novel events and facts. (Mobbs et al. 2007, Aronson 2010).
One such method called BEOS (brain electrical oscillations signature) underwent a trial in India in 2008 where the perpetrators were convicted for murder based on the results of the questions asked during the BEOS measurement. (Goodenough et al., 2010, Moreno 2009). This caused significant controversy in the courtroom and hence the use of BEOS was discontinued. I believe however that giving up in the face of being challenged should not be an acceptable solution. It is time that the legal system in India collaborated with cognitive neuroscientific researchers to revise, develop and apply new external scientific measures that can be used to aid legal decision making.
Organisational settings and cognitive neuroscience
Organisational behavioural psychologists have for long tried to understand, assess and improve the behaviour of leaders, team members and employees at the individual level. However, there has been a recent surge in using technological advancements like neuroimaging to take a snapshot of our brain while we perceive certain behaviours, view advertisements and products or interact with our leaders and colleagues. David Rock, a renowned leadership consultant, refers to this cross disciplinary collaboration as “neuroleadership”. This field aims to conduct neuroscientific explorations of elements of leadership like self-awareness, awareness of others, insight, decision making, and influencing. Based on the findings, a team of psychiatrists, neuroscientists and leadership experts plan new and mindful management practices to help rewire the brain for more productive cognitive and behavioural manifestations. Relatedly, recent studies suggest that emotional intelligence, i.e. the ability to be self-aware and aware of others emotions, ability to regulate emotions effectively, and be communicative and expressive about ones mental experiences are important aspects for being successful in one’s career. (Druskat, Sala & Mount, 2005). Referring to neural terminology, emotional Intelligence is marked by good connections between the prefrontal cortex and other regions (Davidson, Putnam & Larson, 2000), as well as by the thickening of the cortex responsible for shifting attention. (Brefczynski-Lewis et al, 2003).
Similarly, “neuroeconomics” focuses on the neuroscientific analysis and understanding of economically relevant behaviour. For example, using neuroscientific research methods like fMRI to measure brain activity related to distinct cognitive and perceptual events, and higher cognitive processes like decision making, risk and reward evaluation and interactions with economical agents.
In the Indian context, we have all read and experienced the adult challenges of stressful environments in organisations, its negative impact on the employees’ health and the overall productivity, suicidal tendencies arising from the inability to come out of financial losses and an imbalance between work and family life. Promoting a cognitive neuroscientific approach to explore and advance the fields of neuroleadership, neuromarketing and neuroeconomics will provide an evidence based understanding of how to creative a progressive and positive work environment. For example, informative training sessions could be held at regular intervals to impart skills of what one can do at a personal cognitive and behavioural level to be a firm and respected leader, a helpful and honest colleague and even increase productivity by making changes in the products to meet the needs of the population.
By in large, this paper sought to empower the introduction and encouragement of cognitive neuroscience in the Indian context. Providing cognitive neuroscientists with the adequate resources spread their wings across multiple fields in India will ensure positive growth and development, similar to the impact in foreign countries.
By engaging cognitive neuroscientists in the clinical mental health field, we will be able to able to develop a client-centred and holistic rehabilitation therapy for the patient considering the neural, physical and behavioural manifestations of the illness. We would consider solving questions like, “what pharmacological and behavioural interventions can be applied to effectively impact the specific neuro mechanisms for better results?” The idea is to not simply rely on treatments which we know work but we don’t know why they work. It is only when we start exploring the unknown that we will we be able to progress and develop novel methods in neurorehabilitation which may provide greater hope for more effective and high-quality healthcare services in India.
Moreover, the cross-disciplinary interaction of cognitive neuroscience with various fields like clinical research settings, general and mental healthcare services, the education system in India, the legal system, and organisational settings was also discussed. Positive impact and development is evident from the foreign applications of cognitive neuroscience in these fields. A similar approach should slowly be adopted in India, to think beyond conventional methods and adopt a cognitive neuroscientific approach for educating strategically, leading organisations effectively, treating patients with holistic treatment plans and providing justice using both science and humanity. Despite decades of consistent efforts to generate a profound understand of the intricacies of the human brain, the neuroscientific community largely believes that we have only scratched the surface. There is so much to learn and discover about the magnificent brain and our complex human behaviour, so let’s encourage one another to dig a little deeper and wider?