Liars ‘have more white matter’

Oh, dear. The BBC are at it again. This time it’s a simple error, and one that’s a little hard for med students to get straight. Well, perhaps slow med students.

In the article Liars ‘have more white matter’: “The brains of habitual liars differ from those of honest people, a study in California suggests.”

Which is all well and good until you get to the heart of the problem:

“White matter is the brain’s thinking part – grey matter the wiring – and may provide the capacity to lie, it said.”

Grey is white, white is grey..

Oops. White matter is called that because its insulating coat (myelin) makes it look white, and shiny. Grey matter is made up of the nerve cells that actually do the thinking. It’s not a big error, but who’s proofreading their medical stories?

Update 9-30-05: the offending sentence has been corrected:

White matter transmits information and grey matter processes it. Having more white matter in the prefrontal cortex may aid lying, the researchers said,

dangling comma and all.


  1. Who’s proofreading their stories? The medical advisors from ER and similar shows.

  2. Aside from the typo, it’s always strange that people have to make an explanation for everything. So much easier than the truth: “It seems to be a valid finding, but we have no idea what it means.”

    It’s in the same category as the recent suggestion that people who daydream a lot increase their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.