“I know you can hear me”: Neural correlates of feigned hearing loss



In the assessment of human hearing, it is often important to determine whether hearing loss is organic or nonorganic in nature. Nonorganic, or functional, hearing loss is often associated with deceptive intention on the part of the listener. Over the past decade, functional neuroimaging has been used to study the neural correlates of deception, and studies have consistently highlighted the contribution of the prefrontal cortex in such behaviors. Can patterns of brain activity be similarly used to detect when an individual is feigning a hearing loss? To answer this question, 15 adult participants were requested to respond to pure tones and simple words correctly, incorrectly, randomly, or with the intent to feign a hearing loss. As predicted, more activity was observed in the prefrontal cortices (as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging), and delayed behavioral reaction times were noted, when the participants feigned a hearing loss or responded randomly versus when they responded correctly or incorrectly. The results suggest that cortical imaging techniques could play a role in identifying individuals who are feigning hearing loss. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc