The truth about lying: Inhibition of the anterior prefrontal cortex improves deceptive behavior

Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tuebingen, Gartenstrasse 29, Tuebingen, Germany.
Cerebral Cortex (Impact Factor: 8.67). 06/2009; 20(1):205-13. DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhp090
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Recent neuroimaging studies have indicated a predominant role of the anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC) in deception and moral cognition, yet the functional contribution of the aPFC to deceptive behavior remains unknown. We hypothesized that modulating the excitability of the aPFC by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) could reveal its functional contribution in generating deceitful responses. Forty-four healthy volunteers participated in a thief role-play in which they were supposed to steal money and then to attend an interrogation with the Guilty Knowledge Test. During the interrogation, participants received cathodal, anodal, or sham tDCS. Remarkably, inhibition of the aPFC by cathodal tDCS did not lead to an impairment of deceptive behavior but rather to a significant improvement. This effect manifested in faster reaction times in telling lies, but not in telling the truth, a decrease in sympathetic skin-conductance response and feelings of guilt while deceiving the interrogator and a significantly higher lying quotient reflecting skillful lying. Increasing the excitability of the aPFC by anodal tDCS did not affect deceptive behavior, confirming the specificity of the stimulation polarity. These findings give causal support to recent correlative data obtained by functional magnetic resonance imaging studies indicating a pivotal role of the aPFC in deception.

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Available from: Ahmed A Karim, Aug 02, 2015
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    • "We did not choose a more posterior electrode as in previous studies (e.g. occipital cortex, Karim et al. (2010) and Bellaı¨che et al. (2013)), because of potential phosphene induction which could have interfered with stimulus processing in our experiment (Antal et al., 2003a, b). We used electrodes of two different sizes: 35 cm 2 for the active electrode, and 100 cm 2 for the return electrode. "
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    Neuroscience 04/2014; 265:21–27. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.01.052 · 3.33 Impact Factor
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    • "However, tDCS research in its current form is a fairly recent endeavor, being revived at the turn of the millennium by Paulus, Nitsche, Antal, and other researchers based in Gottingen, Germany. Since then, a growing number of researchers have pursued cognitive tDCS studies, examining the effects of tDCS on learning and memory, attention and perception, language production and acquisition, problem solving and decision making, and even deception (Karim et al., 2010). "
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    NeuroImage 08/2013; 85. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.07.083 · 6.36 Impact Factor
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    • "Thus, these findings suggest that the normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex is a critical prerequisite for (successful) lying, but does not affect individuals' propensity to tell a lie or the truth. In line with this interpretation are recent studies demonstrating that disrupting areas of the prefrontal cortex with transcranial direct current stimulation does not affect individuals' propensity to deceive, but changes the speed and efficiency of deceptive responses (Karim et al., 2010; Priori et al., 2008). Moreover, although preschool children can distinguish mistakes from lies and are capable of deception, these children are far from being " perfect liars " (Polak & Harris, 1999; Siegal & Peterson, 1998). "
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