Search Results for “fMRI”


fMRI: The New Lie Detector?

A new study, conducted by scientists at Stanford University, claims that machinery can be programmed to detect if a person is being truthful or deceptive.

The article, written by Tommy Sander and published on Monday September 13, 2010 in USC’s Neon Tommy news website, is interesting to say the least .

Machines already control or at least regulate much of our lives as it is today.  Are we ready to hand over, to a machine, determinations of the intimacies of the human mind?

Well, researchers in the psychology department at Stanford are trying to unlock the secrets of the mind.  They have begun working on extracting and understanding memories using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain.

Dr. Jesse Rissman and his research colleagues tested their theory in a study where participants were assessed on their ability to accurately recall a certain set of faces.  As the participants responded to the faces scientists simultaneously recorded their brain activity with an fMRI.  They used the scans to identify unique brain patterns which are associated with memory.

Basically, scientists are using a very high tech and expensive MRI for deep brain activity induced by memories.  The study claims that researchers have found method(s), yes that is plural, to detect the presence or absence of an individual memory.  That may sound like an impossible feat but with the pace of technological advances in the 21st century many impossible feats are coming to light as incredible innovations are being created. But does that necessarily equate to improvements?

The article claims that the fMRI scan can be helpful in determining the accuracy of legal testimonies in the future.  The article did not state how far into the future we have to wait until this can be perfected scientific evidence of truth telling.  However, in 2009 lawyers attempted to use fMRI data as evidence in a court of law but eventually withdrew their request.  This year a psychologist in Tennessee obtained evidence from another MRI truth verifying organization and submitted it to a court of law, but the judge refused to admit the evidence.  Judges refuse to admit such evidence for obvious reasons, which have been stated by Dr. Rissman himself.

Rissman acknowledges that the convoluted intricacies of the mind qualify all the data as unreliable.  In effect, the brain scans are only as accurate as a person’s memory.  Therefore, essentially all that was measured was a person’s belief that he/she had seen a particular face.  There are also other drawbacks to testing with fMRIs such as the machines ability to determine and account for the difference in explicit memories and implicit memories.

Is the way of the future to assign machines the ability to detect if a person is being truthful or delusive?  If so, how accurate can a machine be against the most powerful tool in the universe…the human mind?

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The Problem of Lie Detection

mri-782459_640Somewhat unsurprisingly, the movies have painted a highly inaccurate picture of the power of polygraphs, or so-called lie-detector tests. While many crime dramas showcase a seemingly miraculous technology for distinguishing truths from lies, this portrayal, itself, is far from true.

However, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that polygraph tests may yet have a role to play, alongside MRI machines and brain scans.

Subjects were asked to write down numbers and then lie to researchers about what they had written down. While being interrogated, each participant was subjected to both an MRI scan and a polygraph test, and the researchers attempted to evaluate when they were being lied to.

While the MRI test proved to be about 24 percent more effective than the polygraph, both tests employed in tandem were able to determine deception in almost every case: a remarkable achievement.

Previous studies on MRI testing found them to be up to 90 percent accurate, while the accuracy of polygraph tests ranged wildly from perfectly accurate to completely unreliable. Even 90 percent accuracy falls short of being reliable enough for criminal proceedings. However, with this study, the doors have opened towards justifying more research into lie detection testing.

As Dr. Daniel Langleben, a study author, said: “While the jury remains out on whether fMRI will ever become a forensic tool, these data certainly justify further investigation of its potential.”

In order to appreciate the significance of this study, it is important to understand the limitations that both MRI machines and polygraph tests face in detecting deception.

MRI machines generate images of the subjects’ brains. These images allow researchers to see any physical abnormalities or changes in blood flow, revealing which parts of the brain are currently active. Some of the earliest studies on MRIs as lie detectors had subjects select playing cards and then lie about which ones they had picked. This helped narrow down which parts of the brain light up when a person is being deceitful.

However, there may be confounding factors, as these MRI images often just reveal when the subject has to think quickly about how best to respond. While this does detect lies, it may also indicate uncertainty, or it could be easily misled by a well-rehearsed story that took no effort to recite.

Based on this uncertainty, every attempt to introduce MRI-based lie detection as evidence in court proceedings has failed. In fact, they often show false signs of deception, which would be a major flaw in court proceedings.

Polygraph tests, on the other hand, work by tracking the subject’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and other physiological responses. Law enforcement personnel ask “control” questions that are only tangentially related to the investigation at hand, as well as “relevant” questions which probe for details on the subject’s involvement in the crime.

If the subject shows a higher heart rate when asked the “relevant” questions, this indicates that they are attempting to conceal their guilt. However, there are significant underlying problems with this approach. In fact, there is little evidence to show that these physiological responses are even unique to the practice of deception.

Between the theoretical flaws and the fact that polygraphs can be outsmarted, it is understandable that they are currently not admissible in court proceedings.

For more information on polygraph tests, read our blog here. Also, check out this post to learn how you can be a better lie-detector.

Understanding Another Person’s Emotion Signals Similarity, And May Make You Find Them More Attractive

71 wedding hands - indiaBy Dana Dovey for Medical Daily

Ever felt instantly attracted to a stranger but you couldn’t figure out why? Though you might have brushed it off as fate or destiny, a recent study has a much more scientific explanation: We may subconsciously be more attracted to strangers when we feel that we can accurately interpret their facial expressions and emotions. If confirmed, the study results will further support the idea that the search for love is ultimately a giant hunt to find someone just like you.

For the study, now published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers from several institutions in Germany chose to closely examine the way in which instant attraction between strangers works in the brain. The team had 19 male and 21 female volunteers view videos of six different women as they expressed fear or sadness. The volunteers were then asked to choose which emotion they thought the models were displaying and mark down how confident they were about their choices. The volunteers were also asked before and after seeing the women in the videos to answer questions about them, such as how much they would like to meet them in real life. This was done to gauge their levels of attraction to the different women, according to Medical Xpress.

In a second experiment, a different set of volunteers was asked to watch the same videos of women showing different emotions. This time, however, the group underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to better understand the brain activity that occurred during the viewing. When the researchers combined data from the two experiments, a pattern began to take shape.

The more confident the volunteers were in their ability to correctly identify the models’ emotions, the more attracted to them they felt. The fMRI scans also showed that the reward centers in the volunteers’ brains lit up more when watching women whose emotions they felt they could read with confidence.

Science has already shown that a person is more likely to be attracted to someone that’s similar in every way possible. For example, a recent study of 1,523 pairs found that personalities between both romantic partners and friendship pairs were so common that being similar “could be described as a psychological default” for forming relationships.

“Likeness attracts likeness. It’s actually a myth that opposites attract,” Stacy Lynn Harp, a clinically trained marriage and family therapist in Tennessee, previously told Medical Daily. “Those who are seeking people who are similar understand that long-term compatibility is more likely with someone who is like themselves.”

This preference for likeness is so strong, according to Psychology Today, that we even tend to choose partners who physically resemble ourselves or our parents. The current study supports this research. According to the German team, the ability to recognize emotions is an indication of having similar “neural vocabulary.” Believing that you can understand a stranger’s emotions gives you a feeling of understanding and connectedness, which in turn increases how attracted you are to them.

Source: Anders S, de Jong R, Beck C, Haynes JD, Ethofer T. A neural link between affective understanding and interpersonal attraction. PNAS. 2016

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