Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Can a Brain Scan Prove You're Telling the Truth?

By Phil McKenna,
Source: New Scientist

A new "truth-telling" industry is emerging in the US which uses brain scans to determine whether or not people are lying. But experts are already questioning the ethics and validity of such tests.

The trouble began in 2003 when a fire gutted Harvey Nathan’s deli in Charleston, South Carolina. In the aftermath, Nathan fought off police charges of arson, but his insurers’ lingering doubts over his innocence have since tied up a payout that could exceed $200,000.

Which is why, last December (2006), Nathan travelled across the US and paid $1500 to have his brain scanned. “We provide a service for people who need to prove they are telling the truth,” says Joel Huizenga, a biologist turned entrepreneur and CEO of No Lie MRI of Tarzana, California.

In what amounted to the world’s first commercial lie-detection test using function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), technicians at No Lie mapped blood flow within Nathan’s brain while he answered a battery of questions about the deli fire and compared the results to control tests during which Nathan was asked to lie.


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