The Role of Neuroscience in the Evaluation of Mental Insanity: on the Controversies in Italy

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Abstract

In the present manuscript, we comment upon a paper that strongly criticized an expert report written by the consultants of the defense (two of the authors of the present paper, PP and GS) in a case of pedophilia, in which clinical and neuro-scientific data were used to establish the causal link between brain alterations and onset of criminal behavior. These critiques appear to be based mainly on wrong pieces of information and on a misinterpretation of the logical reasoning adopted by defense consultants. Here we provide a point-by-point reply to the issues raised in the above paper and also discuss the potential role that neuroscience may contribute in the forensic context. Did the forensic neuroscience defense consultants claim the existence of a deterministic relationship between brain structure or function and behavior? How did the neuroscientific logic work in this specific case? How may the classic psychiatric/neurologic examination and neuroscientific evidence work side by side? Does the rarity of a disease impact on the causal relationship between the disease and the crime? Do neuroscientific data need to be interpreted? We address the above questions and conclude that neuroscience may strengthen the results of psychiatric evaluations, thus reducing uncertainty in the forensic settings.

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