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Lying and Magnets

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Can lying be controlled by applying a magnetic field to the brain?  Sounds too good to be true, and I will remain skeptical, but a couple of Estonian researchers claim some results in this area.  Abstract and citation are after the jump.

We all know what a major advance DNA was, providing definitive answers in many cases.  When the neuropsych folks come up with a lie detector that truly works, it will be a revolution that dwarfs DNA in its scope.  When any wrongly accused innocent person can prove his innocence simply by taking the test, one of our greatest concerns will vanish.  And juries will know that, whether they are formally permitted to consider it or not.
Brain-process foundations of deceptive behaviour have become a subject of intensive study both in fundamental and applied neuroscience. Recently, utilization of transcranial magnetic stimulation has enhanced methodological rigour in this research because in addition to correlational studies causal effects of the distinct cortical systems involved can be studied. In these studies, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has been implied as the brain area involved in deceptive behaviour. However, combined brain imaging and stimulation research has been concerned mostly with deceptive behaviour in the contexts of mock thefts and/or denial of recognition of critical objects. Spontaneous, "criminally decontextuated" propensity to lying and its dependence on the activity of selected brain structures has remained unexplored. The purpose of this work is to test whether spontaneous propensity to lying can be changed by brain stimulation. Here, we show that when subjects can name the colour of presented objects correctly or incorrectly at their free will, the tendency to stick to truthful answers can be manipulated by stimulation targeted at dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Right hemisphere stimulation decreases lying, left hemisphere stimulation increases lying. Spontaneous choice to lie more or less can be influenced by brain stimulation.
Inga Karton & Talis Bachmann, Effect of prefrontal transcranial magnetic stimulation on spontaneous truth-telling, Behavioural Brain Research, 225(1) 209-214 (2011).

Bob Yirka has this story at Medical Xpress.

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I strongly suspected there was a relation between magnetism and lying when, immediately after President Obama said last night that his half-trillion dollar jobs plan was "all paid for," my toaster jumped off the kitchen table and onto the refrigerator door, where it has been firmly anchored ever since.

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