MRI's: An Easier Way to Detect Lies?

Ten years ago Scott Faro, the director of the Functional Brain Imaging Center and Clinical MRI at Temple University, decided to begin a study to see whether or not you could use MRI imaging to detect whether or not someone was lying. Faro and his colleagues recruited volunteers. Half of them were asked to shoot a toy gun and lie about it while in the MRI machine, and the nonshooters were told to tell the truth. During their brain scans, participants were thoroughly questioned about their tales. The results showed that by studying brain patterns through MRI imaging, Faro was able to detect which participants were lying as effectively as he could have with a lie detector test.

In the study, images showed that the people who were lying used three different parts of their brain than the people who weren’t lying did, proving that studying brain activity can be an easy and potentially more reliable way of detecting lies than a lie detector test.

Faro argues that lie detector tests, although currently the go-to for interrogations, aren’t necessarily as reliable as using an MRI scan could be, simply because it’s possible for people to cheat them. Polygraphs track body functions like breathing, blood pressure, and the skin’s ability to conduct electricity, almost all of which it’s possible for the individual to master control over. There’s no evidence to prove that anyone has been able to control what parts of their brain they use, making MRI scans a more effective tool for interrogation. Awesome, right?

Although they’ll need to conduct several more studies before the idea becomes widely accepted, this study has been huge in demonstrating the usefulness of medical technology.