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Trece Hopp, center, of Menomonie has electrodes attached to her head at UW-Stout as part of a research project with the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

EEG isn’t commonly used to study lie detection. But as a summer university research project four student, two from University of Wisconsin-Stout and two from University of South Carolina-Aiken, conducted lie detection tests using high-density electroencephalography to examine brain wave activity.Lie detection is at the heart of the study that got underway recently in the psychology department at UW-Stout. The most common lie detection test, the polygraph, measures changes in heart rate and skin conductivity.

But the UW-Stout study is “based on claims about brain fingerprinting, which is a highly controversial use of EEG. Issues concerning the accuracy and use of brain fingerprinting are numerous,” said UW-Stout professor Desiree BuddBudd, who initiated the study. Brain fingerprinting theorizes that a person processes known or relevant information differently than unknown or irrelevant information.

Volunteers hooked up to EEG machines were induced to tell two types of lies, using “stolen” Pokemon cards, to see if the brain has two systems for deception. The goal of the study was to determine if there could be another way to use EEG that avoids the pitfalls associated with current versions of brain fingerprinting, Budd said.

Positive experience

According to Kayce VanPelt, one of the four students, the experience improved her basic research skills, taught her how to operate new equipment and how to professionally prepare, write and read research papers. “I know the experience provided me with the basics I need to continue with research and hopefully get into grad school,” she said.

The EEG project, a summer research experience for undergraduates, is part of a three-year, $400,000 National Science Foundation grant with USC-Aiken. The project will continue through the 2013-14 academic year at both schools, and the students hope to present their study results nationally.


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