The Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society (SPINS) is a new multidisciplinary initiative based in the Stanford Law School that seeks to study how neuroscience affects society. SPINS was created with support from the Stanford Neuroscience Institute, directed by Professor Bill Newsome. The program is part of the Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology. The program is directed by law professor Hank Greely, with Anthony Wagner, professor of psychology and neuroscience, serving as deputy director.

Innovations in neuroscience are rapidly expanding our understanding of how the brain functions and providing new insights into diseases and mental health conditions. Beyond the medical implications of neuroscience research, new discoveries and techniques are already affecting the broader society in a wide range of contexts, from criminal defendants’ use of brain scans in courts, to companies selling neuroimaging-based lie-detection services, to increasing efforts to sell or use software- or pharmaceutical- based “brain enhancement.”

The SPINS initiative seeks to bring together neuroscientists and scholars from many fields both at Stanford and around the world to understand the influences of neuroscience on society, both today and in the near future. SPINS will not just study these issues, but will also seek to improve public understanding and shape policy responses to these developments.

Specifically, SPINS has three missions:

  • Every year, beginning in January 2015, SPINS will explore a specific issue where questions about the effects of neuroscience on society are pressing. The exploration will take the form of a working group that will analyze the science and its social consequences, and prepare a report with concrete recommendations that, after discussion at a public workshop, will be publicly distributed. For its first working group project, SPINS is focusing on the scientific, legal, social, and ethical issues behind neuroprediction for Alzheimer’s Disease, schizophrenia, and dyslexia.Future working group projects might include: (1) analyzing the use of neuroimaging for pain detection and making recommendations about whether, how, and under what circumstances these methods should be used; (2) reviewing the marketing of “brain enhancing” devices (including software) and recommending whether or what kinds of regulation or other actions might be appropriate. We expect that each working group project will lead to several publications.
  • SPINS sponsors various educational and public events at Stanford, including both local and outside speakers. Check out our “Upcoming Events” link for forthcoming SPINS events.
  • SPINS employs fellows to research issues identified as important to the field. Click on the “Fellows” link to read about our current fellow, and the “SPINS Fellowship” link to learn about future fellowship opportunities.

The SPINS program is closely affiliated with the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences (CLB). Together with CLB, SPINS offers conferences, workshops, and lectures for Stanford students and others with an interest in the ethical, legal, scientific, economic, and social implications of accelerated technological change. SPINS also includes the student-run Stanford Interdisciplinary Group on Neuroscience and Law (SIGNAL), which hosts regular, informal discussions of “neurolaw” issues.

To learn more about SPINS, check out our joint CLB/SPINS blogpodcast, and Twitter feed. To get involved in SPINS or be informed about upcoming events, contact us at

Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

Neuroscience, Mindreading, and the Courts: The Example of Pain

This Article is about mindreading and its applications to the law. We are beginning to be able to use neuroimaging and other techniques to read minds.

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Henry T. Greely

  • Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law
  • Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences
  • Professor, by courtesy, Genetics
  • Chair, Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics
  • Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society
Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society 1

SPINS Fellowship

The Fellowship is a residential fellowship that provides an opportunity to conduct research in the dynamic environment of Stanford Law School. This is a one-year Fellowship with the possibility of a one-year extension. We are accepting applications from candidates with a background, knowledge, and interest in both neuroscience and some aspect of law, policy, ethics, or social analysis.

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