Liar Liar

Yaling Yang of the University of Southern California says, "For normal people, from age 2 to age 10 there is a big jump in their white matter, and actually that's the same age that they develop the skill to lie." Pinocchio must have more white matter in his brain than other children (or fictional characters for that matter).

Consider this scenario: as you leave work one day, an annoying co-worker corners you and asks you out on a date.  As quickly as possible, you have to come up with an excuse for why you can’t go.  What would you say?  How quickly could you make up a story?  How convincing would it be?  According to NPR’s Radio Lab, the answers may lie in how much white matter you have in your brain.

While half of the brain is composed of gray matter that processes information, the other half is composed of white matter. White matter connects our ideas and thoughts by transporting electrical signals from one group of neurons to another.  (“Each neuron forms about 1,000 [10+03] connections in the brain to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections” [10+12] according to Scientific American.)

A 2005 study led by Yaling Yang of the University of Southern California, and Adrian Raine, an expert on antisocial disorders, found “…evidence of structural differences in the brains of people with a history of persistent lying.” Specifically, people who tend to lie–or even those who can tell fanciful stories on the fly–have up to 20% more white matter than the average person.

To hear the complete story on Radio Lab (highly recommended), click here.  To read the story, click here.

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