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Surprising Science

Brain Scan Reduces Jail Sentence

An Italian woman is the latest person to have a murder sentence reduced on the grounds that abnormalities in her brain, and genes, could explain her aberrant behaviour.

What’s the Latest Development?


An Italian court has reduced the jail sentence of a woman convicted of murder to 20 years after her brain scans were presented as evidence. “The scientists involved pointed out that a scan of Stephania Albertani’s brain looked different to those of ten healthy women. According to the journal Nature, the team claimed that her behaviour could be explained by alterations in the grey matter of two key brain regions: the anterior cingulate gyrus—involved in inhibiting behavior—and the insula, which has been linked to aggression.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Notions like autonomy and responsibility, on which our justice systems depends for its legitimacy, are being questioned by current nueroscience. “But does a dodgy brain scan really mean that a person can’t control their own actions? On the one hand it seems obvious that unusual brain structure might be linked to unusual behavior—it’s easy to see personality changes in some people who experience brain trauma.” As brain scans become more prevalent in courts, experts will ask if individuals can be dissociated from their brains or if they are one and the same. 


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