Difference in structure of liars' brains found in study

October 02, 2005|By ROBERT LEE HOTZ | ROBERT LEE HOTZ,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- In the lexicon of lying, there are white lies and bare-faced lies. Facts can be fudged, forged or shaded. There are fibbers, fabricators and feckless fabulists. By whatever clinical term, the truth simply is not in some people.

Now scientists have an anatomical inkling why.

A new study from the University of Southern California, published in this month's issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that the talent for compulsive deception is embedded in the structure of the brain itself.

People who habitually lie and cheat - pathological liars - appear to have much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have fewer actual neurons.

The differences affect a portion of the brain, located just behind the forehead, that enables people to feel remorse, learn moral behavior and plan complex strategies.

The surplus of connections between neurons might enable these people to be more adept at the complex neural networking that underlies deceit. Lying is hard work, and these brains may be better equipped to handle it, the researchers said.

Robert Lee Hotz writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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