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  • fMRI Technology Shows Promise in Lie Detection
May 2003
WASHINGTON, May 5 -- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may one day determine whether someone is lying, and may even serve as a basis for a new type of lie-detector test, suggests a study by Scott Faro, MD, associate professor of radiology and director of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Research Laboratory at Drexel University Medical Center in Philadelphia. He presented his findings at the American Society of Neuroradiology 41st Annual Meeting last week.

"The purpose of this study was to investigate the regions of brain activation during truth-telling or deception using functional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging," said Faro. "Although it was a very small patient population, our results suggest that there may be unique areas in the brain involved in the truth-telling and deception process that can be measured using fMRI."

The study tested three healthy volunteers using a four-channel polygraph machine. An event-related MR design was used to collect the functional MR images. A polygraph expert used a classic polygraph control question technique to present relevant and control questions to subjects, who were asked to either lie or tell the truth.

Results of the preliminary study showed the anterior cingulated, limbic lobe and inferior frontal regions of the brain were active during the deception process. However, when a subject was telling the truth, the predominate active regions were the temporal lobe and lentiform nuclei, Faro said.

"These results suggest that there may be unique patterns of brain activation involved in truth-telling or deception that can be measured using fMRI," Faro said. "It makes sense theoretically that the regions we discovered to be activated during the deception process were the same brain regions involved with judgment, fear and anxiety."

He said further research may show that fMRI has the potential to be a new forensic truth detection technique that will augment polygraphs.

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