Press Release

Academy Publishes New Volume of Essays Examining the Use – and Misuse – of fMRI to Recognize Deceit


The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has published a new collection of essays, Using Imaging to Identify Deceit: Scientific and Ethical Questions, examining the scientific support for using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to recognize deception.

The seven essays, authored by scholars of neuroscience, law, and philosophy, also consider the legal and ethical concerns raised when machine-based means are employed to identify deceit.

“The pace of scientific discovery and the subsequent applications of new technology create questions that extend beyond the boundaries of science,” says neuroscientist Emilio Bizzi, President of the American Academy and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This adaptation of medical technology generates unique legal and ethical concerns that benefit from the thoughtful opinions of this diverse collection of scholars.”

The authors are skeptical of lie detection based on fMRI technology. They also consider the widely used polygraph and conclude that both it and fMRI are unreliable.

Using Imaging to Identify Deceit: Scientific and Ethical Questions includes the following essays:

  • "Imaging Deception" Emilio Bizzi, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Steven E. Hyman, Provost, Harvard University and Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
  • "An Introduction to Functional Brain Imaging in the Cortex of Lie Detection" Marcus E. Raichle, Professor of Radiology, Neurology, Neurobiology and Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis
  • "The Use of fMRI in Lie Detection: What Has Been Show and What Has Not" Nancy Kanwisher, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • "Lying Outside the Laboratory: The Impact of Imagery and Emotion on the Neural Circuitry of Lie Detection" Elizabeth A. Phelps, Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University
  • "Actions Speak Louder than Images" Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  • "Neural Lie Detection in Courts" Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Professor of Philosophy and Hardy Professor of Legal Studies, Dartmouth College
  • "Lie Detection in the Courts: The Vain Search for the Magic Bullet" Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York
  • "Neuroscience-Based Lie Detection: The Need for Regulation" Henry T. Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics, Stanford University


These essays were originally presented as talks at a symposium sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the McGovern Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.