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Neuroimage. 2011 Mar 1;55(1):312-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.025. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Lying in the scanner: covert countermeasures disrupt deception detection by functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have documented differences between deceptive and honest responses. Capitalizing on this research, companies marketing fMRI-based lie detection services have been founded, generating methodological and ethical concerns in scientific and legal communities. Critically, no fMRI study has examined directly the effect of countermeasures, methods used by prevaricators to defeat deception detection procedures. An fMRI study was conducted to fill this research gap using a concealed information paradigm in which participants were trained to use countermeasures. Robust group fMRI differences between deceptive and honest responses were found without, but not with countermeasures. Furthermore, in single participants, deception detection accuracy was 100% without countermeasures, using activation in ventrolateral and medial prefrontal cortices, but fell to 33% with countermeasures. These findings show that fMRI-based deception detection measures can be vulnerable to countermeasures, calling for caution before applying these methods to real-world situations.

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