In the lexicon of lying, there are white lies and barefaced lies. Facts can be fudged, forged or shaded. There are fibbers, fabricators and feckless fabulists. By whatever clinical term, the truth simply is not in some people.
Now scientists have an anatomical inkling why.
A USC study published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that the talent for compulsive deception is embedded in the structure of the brain.
People who habitually lie and cheat -- pathological liars -- appear to have much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have fewer actual neurons.
To seek a liar's neural signature, the researchers recruited 108 volunteers, then sorted them into groups based on a battery of psychological tests designed to determine how often they lied, used aliases, cheated, conned people, malingered or gave false reports to police. The screening tests had been developed by clinical psychologists to diagnose a variety of antisocial personality disorders and assess levels of deceitfulness.