Nonfiction Review: The Brain Defense

July 31, 2017 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

Nonfiction Review: The Brain DefenseTitle: The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms
Author: Kevin Davis
Source: from publisher for review

Summary: This was a fascinating topic and the author did a good job presenting research in a nuanced way.

I’ve always been fascinated by books about how the brain works, so this book about how neuroscience may influence criminal behavior really appealed to me. The most interesting case I’ve heard and one which was repeated here, was the case of a man who experienced pedophillic urges when he had a tumor. These urges stopped when the tumor was removed and he could tell when the tumor recurred because the urges returned. However, this book mostly focuses on the first case where a brain scan was presented as evidence in the courtroom. The author also shares many other interesting, specific cases; discusses the research linking brain activity to behavioral trends; and explores the current relationship between neuroscience and the law.

We’re currently unable to answer the question of whether brain damage or abnormal brain activity robs someone of free will. This question is of critical importance to legal cases where culpability depends on whether someone chose to commit a crime. The author did a fantastic job presenting the research on this topic in a nuanced way. He was clear about what we currently don’t know and careful to limit his conclusions to those supported by the research. Although his opinion on the use of neuroscience in the courtroom was evident from his conclusion, he presented a balanced set of opinions from experts.

In addition to discussing neuroscience research, the author also shared many fascinating case studies. While I love good anecdotes mixed with science as much as the next person, these stories didn’t quite do it for me. Despite the great material the author was working with, I didn’t find them engaging enough that they were what kept me reading. I did enjoy reading them, but they just paled besides the author’s ability to present research so well. Fortunately, an author who can present research in a clear and nuanced way can always win me over. I’d be happy to read any other books he writes.

2 Responses to “Nonfiction Review: The Brain Defense”

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, I suspected other people might feel that way about it, even though the science bits were my favorite. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you!

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