From their pool of volunteers Yang and Raine interviewed and tested participants and separated them into three groups: 12 adults whom they classified, according to certain criteria, as regular ‘liars;’ 21 normal, relatively honest adults; and 16 adults with antisocial personality disorder but no history of pathological lying. The liars targeted in the study were those with histories of manipulative and conning behavior and malingering (lying about ones health for personal gain). Yang and Raine then examined the volunteers’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging and found a considerable discrepancy between the grey/white matter ratios of the liars and of the two control groups. Liars showed 14 percent less gray matter in their prefrontal cortex than the normal individuals, but had 26 percent more white matter than the antisocial subjects and 22 more than the normal subjects. The Liars also exhibited a prefrontal gray/white matter that was much lower than both control groups.
White Matter comprises 40-50% of the volume of a normal adult brain. It is a network made up of millions of axons that facilitate connections between the nerve cells (grey matter) in different parts of the brain. According to Dr. Sean A. Spence, Professor of Psychiatry at the
Though this study focuses on just one part of the neural circuitry involved in lying, it raises many crucial questions about the potential of white matter connectivity, about the definition of “pathological lying” and different kinds of deceptions, about structural abnormalities as causes or affects of behavior, and about the relationship between neurological development and ones proclivity to lie.
"Radio Lab: Into the Brain of a Liar." Radio Lab. Narr. Robert Krulwich. National Public Radio.
6 March 2008
Spence, Sean A. "Prefrontal white matter -- the tissue of lies." The British Journal of Psychiatry. 187 2005: 326-327.
Yang, Yaling and Adrian Raine. "Prefrontal white matter in pathological liars."The British Journal of Psychiatry. 187 2005: 326-327.