The conference, “The Developing Brain: New Directions in Science, Policy and Law,” kicks off a new effort at Washington University to address topics where the fields of neuroscience intersect with emerging issues for our society.  This new effort, led by the Office of Neuroscience Research (ONR), brings together the academic community (faculty, post docs, students and others) as well as those outside our academic walls, to engage in ways that help to educate and inform.

There are many topics at the intersection of neuroscience and society – areas where scientists can benefit by exploring the implications of their research, and non-scientists can benefit by learning about current methods, technologies, and scientific findings.  The goal is that direct conversations across these groups will provide transparency and informed understanding.  The ONR has chosen to initiate this new effort, Neuroscience and Society, with the topic of brain development.  Scientific understanding of brain maturity has been an important consideration in determining the appropriate sentence for convicted juvenile offenders.  Likewise, social and neuroscience tools are being applied to determine the relationship between brain development and socio-economic status.

Our planning committee for this conference includes Washington University faculty members who are neuroscientists, psychologists, and physicians, as well as academics in the fields of Law and of Social Work.  Our planning meetings were supported by a Bring Your Own Idea (BYOI) Award from the Office of the Provost, which helped to move this effort forward.  We are grateful for that institutional support.  We hope that this conference will set the tone for conversations going forward, on the subject of brain development as well as other pressing and relevant issues at the intersection of Neuroscience Research and Society.

Anneliese Schaefer, JD PhD
Director, Office of Neuroscience Research