Looking into the brains of cheaters and liars, neuroscientists have found abnormalities in the area that controls higher thinking.
Pathological liars have less gray matter and more white matter in their prefrontal cortex, according to a report in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Gray matter consists of the cells that do the thinking, while white matter consists of the cells that connect them.
"Our argument is that the more networking there is in the prefrontal cortex, the more the person has an upper hand in lying," said study co-author Adrian Raine, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California (USC). "Their verbal skills are higher. They almost have a natural advantage."
This is the first report on structural brain abnormalities in pathological liars, the USC researchers said, reports the Forbes.
Lying is hard work and these brains may be better equipped to handle it, the researchers said.
"Lying is cognitively complex," said USC psychologist Adrian Raine, the senior scientist on the research project. "It is not easy to lie. It is certainly more difficult than telling the truth. Some people have a biological advantage in lying. It gives them a slight edge."
The researchers recruited 108 volunteers, then sorted them into groups based on psychological tests designed to determine how often they lied. The volunteers were then scanned using magnetic structural imaging to obtain detailed anatomical images of their brain tissue.
The group of compulsive liars had 25.7% more white matter in the prefrontal cortex and 14.2% less gray matter than the normal control group.
"To our knowledge, it is the first imaging study on people who lie, cheat and deceive as a group," Raine said, informs LA Times.