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J Forensic Sci. 2009 Jan;54(1):220-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00927.x. Epub 2008 Nov 29.

Functional MRI detection of deception after committing a mock sabotage crime.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-9119, USA.


Using Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) functional MRI (fMRI) to detect deception is feasible in simple laboratory paradigms. A mock sabotage scenario was used to test whether this technology would also be effective in a scenario closer to a real-world situation. Healthy, nonmedicated adults were recruited from the community, screened, and randomized to either a Mock-crime group or a No-crime group. The Mock-crime group damaged and stole compact discs (CDs), which contained incriminating video footage, while the No-crime group did not perform a task. The Mock-crime group also picked up an envelope from a researcher, while the No-crime group did not perform this task. Both groups were instructed to report that they picked up an envelope, but did not sabotage any video evidence. Participants later went to the imaging center and were scanned while being asked questions regarding the mock crime. Participants also performed a simple laboratory based fMRI deception testing (Ring-Watch testing). The Ring-Watch testing consisted of "stealing" either a watch or a ring. The participants were instructed to report that they stole neither object. We correctly identified deception during the Ring-Watch testing in 25 of 36 participants (Validated Group). In this Validated Group for whom a determination was made, computer-based scoring correctly identified nine of nine Mock-crime participants (100% sensitivity) and five of 15 No-crime participants (33% specificity). BOLD fMRI presently can be used to detect deception concerning past events with high sensitivity, but low specificity.

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