[Paleopsych] LAT: Study: Adept Liars' Brains Are Built Differently
checker at panix.com
Wed Oct 5 17:15:21 UTC 2005
Study: Adept Liars' Brains Are Built Differently
[Thanks to Laird for this.]
Robert Lee Hotz
Times Staff Writer
10:47 AM PDT, September 30, 2005
In the lexicon of lying, there are white lies and bare-faced lies. Facts can be
fudged, forged or shaded. There are fibbers, fabricators and feckless
fabulists. By whatever clinical term, the truth simply is not in some people.
Now scientists have an anatomical inkling why.
A new study from the University of Southern California, published in the
October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that the talent
for compulsive deception is embedded in the structure of the brain itself.
People who habitually lie and cheat â pathological liars â appear to have
much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the
prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have
fewer actual neurons.
The differences affect a portion of the brain, located just behind the
forehead, that enables people to feel remorse, learn moral behavior and plan
The surplus of connections between neurons might enable these people to be more
adept at the complex neural networking that underlies deceit.
Lying is hard work and these brains may be better equipped to handle it, the
"Lying is cognitively complex," said USC psychologist Adrian Raine, the senior
scientist on the research project. "It is not easy to lie. It is certainly more
difficult than telling the truth. Some people have a biological advantage in
lying. It gives them a slight edge."
The researchers recruited 108 volunteers, then sorted them into groups based on
psychological tests designed to determine how often they lied. The volunteers
were then scanned using magnetic structural imaging to obtain detailed
anatomical images of their brain tissue.
The group of compulsive liars had 25.7% more white matter in the prefrontal
cortex and 14.2% less gray matter than the normal control group.
"To our knowledge, it is the first imaging study on people who lie, cheat and
deceive as a group," Raine said.
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