Can a brain scan prove you’re telling the truth?

The latest issue of New Scientist (issue 2590, 10 Feb 07) has an article on how “the apparent emergence of an fMRI truth-telling industry in the US has come as something of a surprise”. Sadly, it’s behind a paywall. It begins:

The trouble began in 2003 when a fire gutted Harvey Nathan’s deli in Charleston, South Carolina. In the aftermath, Nathan fought off police charges of arson, but his insurers’ lingering doubts over his innocence have tied up a payout that could exceed $200,000.

Which is why, last December, Nathan travelled across the US and paid $1500 to have his brain scanned. “We provide a service for people who need to prove they are telling the truth,” says Joel Huizenga, a biologist turned entrepreneur and CEO of No Lie MRI of Tarzana, California. In what amounted to the world’s first commercial lie-detection test using function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), technicians at No Lie mapped blood flow within Nathan’s brain while he answered a battery of questions about the deli fire and compared the results to control tests during which Nathan was asked to lie.

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