ESRC Seminar Series 2011-2012


  ESRC logo         ESRC Seminar Series on Developmental Social Neuroscience, Ethics and the Law:                                                                                   Challenges to legal perspectives in the UK and Europe

Advances in developmental neuroscience have shown that ‘adult-link’ brain systems – i.e. those required for sophisticated appraisal of one’s actions and potential consequences of such actions – do not become fully mature until later stages of adolescence.  Furthermore, such maturity can be affected by adversity and injury.  In the long term this can mean the compromising of key neurological functions – in particular, the capacity to consider complex decisions relating to one’s own welfare and real engagement in society.  Both adversity and injury have been shown to be common in children who offend (and re-offend).  However, studies have shown that children who receive adequate treatment for such injuries or illnesses at an early stage in their development may deal more successfully with social integration at a later stage – such as children provided with rehabilitation after brain injury may avoid violent offending.  This seminar series brought together specialists from the fields of neuroscience, law and policymaking, to address questions relating to brain development, neurological injury and the law – sharing advances in the neuroscience of developmental conditions: exploring the legal implications of such advances at national and EU levels and considering how regulation of neuroscience could be improved at those levels.


Programme of Events

5 seminars were held in total:

Seminar 1 (London): leading neuroscientists and clinicians presented an overview of recent advances in understanding brain development, consequences of adversity and injury, and status of interventions.

Seminar 2 (London): this seminar was led by lawyers who explored the implications of such advances for the law – particularly regarding the justice system in general and criminal and medico-legal cases in particular.

Seminar 3 (Brussels): a workshop which brought together neuroscientists, lawyers and policymakers based in Europe – including civil servants from the European Commission, Council and Parliament – to develop links and consider European regulation in this field.

Seminar 4 (UK Houses of Parliament): this seminar was jointly hosted by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).  Key speakers from previous seminars presented findings from those seminars to policymakers and politicians across all-party groups.

Seminar 5 (Cardiff and Exeter): two core workshops to oversee development of position papers for The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) and the Barrow-Cadbury Trust (BCT), development of web resources and production of materials for POST.


Selected outcomes and further information

The Barrow Cadbury Trust commissioned a policy review, which was launched by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Penal Affairs in the UK Parliament in December 2012.  This review is available here

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner commissioned a review, which was launched in October 2012.  This review has been disseminated widely and in particular to stakeholders such as the Youth Justice Board and National Offender Management Services, to help such stakeholders achieve an improved understanding of how to identify children at risk and how best to provide for their education/health needs.  The review is available here

A web resource has been created containing details of the seminar series, key themes, resources and links as well as media coverage of our research.  This resource is intended to be a ‘hub’ for the networks developed though the seminar series to allow for further collaboration in this area.  Please visit:


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