Can fMRI discriminate between deception and false memory? A meta-analytic comparison between deception and false memory studies

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Sep;104:43-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.06.027. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


Previous research has highlighted the potential of fMRI in discriminating between truth and falsehood. However, falsehoods may not necessarily represent a deliberate intention to deceive; they can be a result of false memory too. It is important to show that fMRI can discriminate between deception and false memory, before it can be applied in legal contexts for deception detection. To this end, we performed a meta-analytic comparison of brain activation between deception and false memory. Activation likelihood estimation meta-analyses were conducted separately on 49 deception (61 contrasts; Ntotal = 991) and 28 false memory (32 contrasts; Ntotal = 484) studies. The contrasts obtained from these meta-analyses were entered into subsequent conjunction and contrast analyses. Deception and false memory tasks activated several frontoparietal regions. Both tasks activated the left superior frontal gyrus. Deception, relative to false memory, was associated with increased activation in the right superior temporal gyrus, right insula, left inferior parietal lobule and right superior frontal gyrus. These results provide some evidence to suggest that fMRI can discriminate between deception and false memory.

Keywords: Deception; fMRI; false memory; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Deception*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Episodic*