Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Liar, liar, brain on fire (Part I)
Remember that scene in the movie "Meet the Parents" where Robert De Niro gives his soon-to-be son-in-law, Ben Stiller, a lie detector test? Stiller's character is nervous and flunks the test even though he didn't really do anything wrong. Well, that's long been a problem with polygraph tests. They are pretty good at catching liars, but they sometimes wrongly accuse honest people too.

Now science is trying to come up with a better test. For tonight's show, we talked to two doctors at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who recently put 11 volunteers into an MRI machine and asked six of them to lie and five to tell the truth to a series of questions. The results are remarkable.

When the volunteers lied, twice as many parts of their brains were active -- about 14 unique areas. But when the volunteers told the truth, only seven areas of the brain were active. Turns out it takes much more concentration to lie and doctors can see the difference using an MRI machine.

The doctors are excited about their research, but stress it is still in the early stages. Nonetheless, I can think of a lot of situations in which this test would be pretty useful -- cheating spouses, criminals, lying politicians. I'll bet you can too.
Posted By Kelly Buzby, CNN Producer: 1:54 PM ET
  22 Comments
I think the scientific research on this topic is amazing, but what will that do as far as cost goes? Aren't MRI machines much more expensive than polygraph tests? And what about people who have to get MRI's for medical purposes - if there's a wait, which will become more important? Technology and research such as this can expand our minds and experiences, but at what real cost?
Posted By Anonymous Stacey, Manchester CT : 2:17 PM ET
Sounds interesting. Maybe this test will prove reliable enough to be admissible in court. That would certainly clear many proceedings up.
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 2:18 PM ET
I can usully tell when my bro be lian, his lips be movin LOL
Posted By Anonymous Jimmy, Marion Indiana : 2:24 PM ET
This does sound pretty interesting but will it be cost effective? MRI's are very expensive and I highly dought would be paid for my local law enforcement.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 2:29 PM ET
It does not surprise me that it takes more brain areas to lie than to tell the truth. There are quite a lot of pathways involved � remembering both the lies and the truth, controlling body language, and regulating emotions just to name a few. Why waste all that brainpower when you can just tell the truth?
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Wakefield, RI : 2:39 PM ET
We should use it for Bush's state of the union addresses!
No wait maybe we should use it when he's talking about homeland security!
No no do it when he says that there's still a seperation of church and state!
How about when he's talking about Hurricane Katrina!
Or the war in Iraq?
Or the WMD's?
Or the wiretaps?
9/11!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh my goodness just think of the possibilities!!!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Theresa Costello, Immaculata, PA : 2:52 PM ET
Now all's we need is a portable MRI. Preferrably something small that can be disguised as something innocuous... say, a cellphone.

Mwah-ah-ah-ah...
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 2:59 PM ET
Makes sense.

Big difference in the cost of buying, maintaining, and running an MRI versus a lie detector. Not exactly a common "field instrument"... though that would make for an interesting campaign caravan - politician's bus followed by the MRI trailer.
Posted By Anonymous Kel, Des Moines, IA : 3:02 PM ET
It's all good until you're the one they're using it on.
Posted By Anonymous Regan, Charlotte, North Carolina : 3:10 PM ET
Can we fit an MRI in through the side door of the White House?
Posted By Anonymous Bill Wagner, Baltimore, MD : 3:12 PM ET
Stick King George in there for about 10 minutes, I'll bet it overloads.
Posted By Anonymous James, Seattle WA. : 3:12 PM ET
since medical mri is a fairly expensive procedure, im just curious. is this type of mri as expensive? if the legal system deems it a more accurate detector and decides to use it instead of the old one, would the taxpayers be burdened with the increased costs?
Posted By Anonymous steve r. erie,pa : 3:16 PM ET
Now, if they could only shrink an MRI machine down to say, the size of a suitcase and figure out make it work remotedly (without having to hook up any wires or be like two inches away from a subjects brain) they might have more than just a toy.
Posted By Anonymous BC Tallahassee Florida : 3:22 PM ET
I would pay tall money for that machine to be hooked up to my significant other. He keeps everything to himself and his eyes give it away. There is a whole world beyond those eyes that I will never know.
Posted By Anonymous Jessica,Clovis,Ca. : 3:22 PM ET
The MRI reflects conscious lying well and this is not an unexpected finding but could not be expected to gain general use because it is a regulated medical procedure with side effects. The real problem is that mistaken, prejudiced, misled and psychopathic persons will not show signs of mental creation of a lie : their "reality" is a "truth" (fact) to them.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick Morris, DC : 3:25 PM ET
Why wouldn't this have the same faults as the stress test? Couldn't duress cause a subject to activate more parts of the brain? Althouh the study is interesting, it has not shown, to any extent, that it is more effective than the operations in place.
Posted By Anonymous David F., New York, NY : 3:27 PM ET
I think that it this new machine could help catch a lot of liars. But I wonder what it would do to maybe someone who had a mental disorder and actually believed that they didn't do something. I wonder if it could catch them as well.
Posted By Anonymous William M., Belcourt N.D. : 3:27 PM ET
This is great news.. but what is the chance of error? I mean, couldnt be that some peopel jsut dont need to think much to lie?
Posted By Anonymous Omar Dix Hills New York : 3:27 PM ET
I think this would be great for politicans!
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Tampa, FL : 3:28 PM ET
Besides filling our bodies with more Magnetic Fields and Radiation, it sounds pretty promissing.

Something like this could take "Justice" to an entire new level. Not only should the defendant take the test. But, prospective Jurors' could take the test to see if they are "Entirely Un-biased" so there are no questions on impartiality.

The BEST use I can think of would be for "All" Presidential Candidates to take the test. Are they honest in their goals and intentions? Do they have the Countries best interest in their presidential planning? I would rather have a president that was honest and made mistakes, than a president that lied to get what he wanted personally. (Sample Question: Did you know that there really wasn't any WMD's, before we invaded Iraq?) I am not saying anyone is guilty, but I would like to know the real answer!

As for questions of infidelity with spouses, if you are convinced they need to take a test like this... Then you are more than likely with the wrong person in the first place!
Posted By Anonymous Tony Martinez Salem, Oregon : 3:31 PM ET
I guess that means Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have very active brains.
Posted By Anonymous Ian, Carrollton, TX : 3:43 PM ET
I'd be interested to see the results of a sociopath lying as compared to a regular, prone-to-guilt person. I know where they can get one with time on his hands in a couple of years if they are interested.
Posted By Anonymous Keith, Bowling Green, KY : 4:40 PM ET
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