Neurophilosophical perspectives of neuroimaging in forensic psychiatry - Giving way to a paradigm shift?

Joachim Witzel, Martin Walter, Bernhard Bogerts, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Forensic psychiatry is concerned with the relationship between psychiatric abnormalities and legal violations and crimes. Due to the lack of available biological criteria, evaluation and therapy in forensic psychiatry have so far been restricted to psychosocial and mental criteria of offenders' personalities. Recent advances in neurosciences allow a closer approach to the neural correlates of personality, moral judgments and decision-making. We propose to discuss the introduction of biological criteria in the field of forensic psychiatry and to establish rules as to what extent such biological criteria will be a better and more reliable choice in judging mentally ill criminals by using all available information that can be obtained by biological means. Psychosocial and subjective criteria in forensic evaluation will be more and more accomplished by biopsychosocial and objective criteria. The responsibility of having committed a criminal act will no longer be exclusively defined by judging free and voluntary decision-making, but rather by brain-behavior relationships. What is often referred to as psychosocially determined mental processes thus could be complemented by estimating the degree of biopsychosocially determined neural processes. We conclude that such a process could contribute to a paradigm shift in forensic psychiatry, which will have profound implications for offenders, forensic psychologists and psychiatrists, the law and society in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • General Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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