[Paleopsych] LAT: Study: Adept Liars' Brains Are Built Differently

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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 — pathological liars — 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 
complex strategies.

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 
researchers said.

"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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