Discriminating fake from true brain injury using latency of left frontal neural responses during old/new memory recognition

Jennifer Neal, Stephanie Strothkamp, Esias Bedingar, Patrick Cordero, Benjamin Wagner, Victoria Vagnini, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health concern that affects 69 million individuals each year worldwide. Neuropsychologists report that up to 40% of individuals undergoing evaluations for TBI may be malingering neurocognitive deficits for a compensatory reward. The memory recognition test of malingering detection is effective but can be coached behaviorally. There is great need to develop a novel neural based method for discriminating fake from true brain injury. Here we test the hypothesis that decision making of faking memory deficits prolongs frontal neural responses. We applied an advanced method measuring decision latency in milliseconds for discriminating true TBI from malingerers who fake brain injury. To test this hypothesis, latencies of memory-related brain potentials were compared among true patients with moderate or severe TBI, and healthy age-matched individuals who were assigned either to be honest or faking memory deficit. Scalp signals of electroencephalography (EEG) were recorded with a 32-channel cap during an Old/New memory recognition task in three age-and education-matched groups: honest (n = 12), malingering (n = 15), and brain injured (n = 14) individuals. Bilateral fractional latencies of late positive ERP at frontal sites were compared among the three groups under both studied (Old) and non-studied (New) memory recognition conditions. Results show a significant difference between the fractional latencies of the late positive component during recognition of studied items in malingerers (averaged latencies = 396 ms) and the true brain injured subjects (mean = 312 ms) in the frontal sites. Only malingers showed asymmetrical frontal activity compared to the two other groups. These new findings support the hypothesis that that additional frontal processing of malingering individuals is measurably different from those of actual patients with brain injury. In contrast to our previous reported method using difference waves of amplitudes at frontal to posterior midline sites during new items recognition (Vagnini et al., 2008), there was no significant latency difference among groups during recognition of New items. The current method using delayed left frontal neural responses during studied items reached sensitivity of 80% and specificity of 79% in detecting malingers from true brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number988
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the grant funding from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the National Institute on Aging to YJ (1R56AG060608).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Neal, Strothkamp, Bedingar, Cordero, Wagner, Vagnini and Jiang.


  • EEG
  • Event-related potentials
  • Fractional peak latency
  • Late positive component
  • Malinger
  • P3
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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