Neuroscience & Public Policy Seminar

The Neuroscience & Public Policy Seminar serves as the focal point for connecting students' training in neuroscience, public affairs and law. It also provides intellectual continuity between the fields throughout the entire period of training.  The seminar itself is open to the public and other qualified students are welcome to enroll in the seminar course listed as NTP 660.

A schedule for this year's seminars is below. An archive of previous seminars can be found here.

2016-2017 Academic Year

September 16, 2016
Matthew Wolf-Meyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Binghamton University

"Thinking Through Sleep: Propositions for a Multibiological Society"

What does the history and contemporary experience of sleep tell us about how the institutions that make up our everyday lives have come into being? Why are work, school, family life, and recreation organized as they are, and how do they affect our sleep? In this presentation, I focus on human experiences of sleep -- drawing from 200 years of medical history and ethnography of modern science, medicine, and activism -- to consider how sleep and society might be organized differently. Institutional flexibility and social modularity become key to reorganizing how we integrate sleep -- and other physiological experiences -- into everyday life in the U.S.


October 14, 2016
Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science

"Addiction is a Brain Disease and it Matters for Society"

Advances in neuroscience over the past few decades have revolutionized our understanding of drug abuse and addiction.  This new understanding has important implications both for clinicians and for policy makers.  Addiction's public health aspects are critical to developing appropriate strategies for dealing with any nation's drug problem.    

January 19, 2017
Paul Bach-Y-Rita Memorial Lecturer
Judy Illes, Professor of Neurology, Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics, Director, National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia

"Ethics, Society, and Advances in Brain Science"

The growing landscape of advances in brain science for preventing, predicting and treating conditions of the nervous system seems to know no bounds. What are the ethical considerations? What is the impact on society today and for the future? Using specific case examples from a range of different domains of neuroscience - disorders of consciousness, spinal cord injury, and neurodegenerative disease - I will explore the answers to these questions and more.


February 16, 2017
Paul Bach-Y-Rita Memorial Lecturer
Jason Fletcher
Professor of Public Affairs; Faculty affiliate, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The Genome Factor: Reporting back from the field on the ongoing integration of genetics and social science"

This presentation will survey some of the approaches that social and health scientists are using to integrate genetic findings and data to ask new questions about social, health, and demographic processes. One focus will be on the creation and use of polygenic scores in health and social science research.

March 9, 2017
Paul Bach-Y-Rita Memorial Lecturer
Robert Kinscherff
Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, Office of the President, and Associate Professor, Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program, William James College

"Neurodevelopment in Adolescence: Implications for Law & Policy in the post-Miller Era"

The United States Supreme Court has increasingly relied upon developmental and neurodevelopmental science in distinguishing adolescents from adults in sentencing. This presentation reviews characteristics of adolescence based in brain development from the onset of puberty into the mid-20's. Implications are considered for law (sentencing, resentencing and parole following Miller, 8th Amendment issues of proportionality and conditions of confinement) and policy (age of criminal jurisdiction, supporting healthy development of incarcerated young offenders).

April 6, 2017
Joseph Wszalek, Esq., Neuroscience & Public Policy Graduate Student
"Comprehension of Social-Legal Language and Concepts: Empirical, Ethical, and Translational Considerations"

April 20, 2017
Paul Bach-Y-Rita Memorial Lecturer
Owen Jones,
New York Alumni Chancellor's Chair in Law, Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University; Director for MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience 

"Current Findings in Law and Neuroscience"

This talk will address promise, perils, and new findings at the intersection of law and neuroscience.