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Research

Law and neuroscience (sometimes ‘neurolaw’) is a relatively young field of study concerned with the intersection between different branches of law and neuroscientific findings about the strict correlation of mental functions and human behaviour to brain mechanisms. Although the implications of neuroscientific thinking and knowledge for law and legal scholarship have raised a variety of legal issues, doctrinal disputes keep on focusing primarily on the impact of neuroscience on criminal responsibility. By suggesting that the mind is just the shadow of the brain,neuroscience is indeed gradually eroding the adequacy of legal rules and standards pertaining to the subjective element of crime, that are orthodoxically grounded on an obsolete metaphisycal dualism and erroneous moral intuitions.

Despite being in their infancy, the neuroscientific ‘revelations’ have already sparked a huge debate between criminal law theorists and brain scientists. However, the effective contribution that neuroscience might offer to criminal law, especially at a substantive level, is currently merely hypothetical, not fully explored. Indeed, current “neurolegal” literature lacks an analytical study into what criminal law might “look like” were neuroscientific theories to be implemented to revise and update criminal law’s concepts, rules and standards. In other words, the current lacuna in literature is a concrete analysis of the implications deriving from the incorporation of neuroscientific theories into criminal law. The scope of my thesis is intended precisely to contribute to filling this gap. More precisely, my research can be defined as a ‘legal experiment’ aimed at investigating the potential impact of neuroscience on criminal law by testing theoretical assumptions underlying the doctrine of culpability against neuroscientific knowledge about decision-making processes in moral judgements.