Judges and juries always ponder whether people act “knowingly” or “recklessly” during criminal activity — and neuroscience has had little to add to the conversation.

But now, researchers, including computational neuroscientist Read Montague of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, have discovered that brain imaging can determine whether someone is acting in a state of knowledge about a crime — which brings stiffer penalties — or a state of recklessness, which even in capital crimes such as homicide, calls for less severe sentences.

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