See a Lie Inside the Brain

Researchers skip the serum and use FMRI to test if someone is telling the truth.

ByABC News
August 30, 2007, 3:38 PM

Aug. 30, 2007 — -- Harvey Nathan is on a mission to prove he's not a liar.

"It's a gut-wrenching experience, " Nathan said. "It's bad."

In 2003, a deli he owned in Charleston, S.C., burned to the ground. Nathan's insurance company accused him of deliberately setting the fire to collect money on his insurance policy and pressed criminal charges.

A judge dismissed the case, but Nathan says his insurance company still does not believe him and has yet to pay for the damage.

"It's frustrating to go through and know there's nothing you can do," Nathan said.

So Nathan went to a new company based in San Diego called No Lie MRI, which claims to use "the first and only direct detection of lies in human history" by actually mapping the portion of the brain that's used in deception.

Polygraph tests, the old standard of being able to tell when someone is lying, are rarely admitted as evidence into court. The polygraph measures blood pressure, sweat and breathing, among other things, to look for emotional signs of lying. But it is possible in some cases for people to learn to control these things and trick the machine.

Now there may be a solution: a truth serum without the needles.

"Whether it's the spouse that hasn't been cheating, but his partner thinks he was, or the person that didn't take the money," said the founder of No Lie MRI, Joel Huizenga, "this is all about people being vindicated when they've been wrongly accused."

The technology his company uses is called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI.

Here's how it works: When someone lies, the brain first stops itself from telling the truth, then generates the deception. When the brain is working hard at lying, more blood rushes to specific portions of the brain and that's what can be detected on the machine.

While No Lie MRI is already offering the service to select customers, a company based in Massachusetts called Cephos, founded by Steven Laken, is taking a more cautious approach with the technology.