The Lying Brain

ALTHOUGH IT’S EASY for psychopaths and well-trained spies to cheat the lie detector, many scientists believe it may be possible to nab liars by going straight to the source of mendacity: the brain.

A recent study by radiologist Scott Faro of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has furnished some new evidence. In Chicago Last week at the meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Faro reported on an experiment in which six subjects fired blank bullets from a toy gun while five others acted as “innocent” controls. The researchers then quizzed the guilty” and “innocent” subjects while their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The shooters were instructed to lie.

The scans revealed that lying and truth telling activate decidedly different areas of the brain. And lying generated more overall activity, firing up regions associated with emotions as well as those involved in the inhibition of responses, Faro’s team found. Although the sample size was small, the study will be useful because the experimenters also collected physiological — data, such as heart rate and blood >pressure, used in traditional polygraph C tests, notes Stanford University neuroscientist John Gabrieli. The comparison between brain imaging and physiological data could help advance the art of lie detecting, he says.

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