Truth, lies differ in brain scans
study raises hopes for new lie-detecting technology
Brain scans show that
the brains of people who are lying look very different from those of people who
are telling the truth, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
The study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging or
fMRI, not only sheds light on what goes on when people lie but may also provide
new technology for lie-detecting, the researchers said.
"There may be unique areas in the brain involved in deception
that can be measured with fMRI," said Dr. Scott Faro, director of the Functional
Brain Imaging Center at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia,
"There may be unique areas in the brain involved in
truth-telling," Faro added at a news conference.
Faro and colleagues tested 10 volunteers. Six of them were
asked to shoot a toy gun and then lie and say they didn't do it. Three others
who watched told the truth about what happened. One volunteer dropped out of the
While giving their "testimony," the volunteers were hooked up
both to a conventional polygraph and also had their brain activity imaged using
fMRI, which used a strong magnet to provide a real-time picture of brain
There were clear differences between the liars and the
truth-tellers, Faro's team told a meeting in Chicago of the Radiological Society
of North America.
"We found a total of seven areas of activation in the
deception [group]," he said. "We found four areas of activity in the
Overall, it seemed to take more brain effort to tell the lie
than to tell the truth, Faro found.
Lying caused activity in the frontal part of the brain --- the medial inferior
and pre-central areas, as well as the hippocampus and middle temporal regions
and the limbic areas. Some of these are involved in emotional responses, Faro
During a truthful response, the fMRI showed activation of
parts of the brain's frontal lobe, temporal lobe and cingulate gyrus.
Faro said the study was small and limited. Volunteers were
not asked to try especially hard to deceive the equipment, he said -- noting
that it has been documented that some people can fool a polygraph using various
Using fMRI as a lie detector is expensive, but it may be worthwhile
in some cases -- such as trying to question a terrorism suspect, or in a
high-profile corporate crime case, Faro said.
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