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. 2013 Jun 19;33(25):10340-7.
doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5323-12.2013.

Neural Correlates of Risk Perception During Real-Life Risk Communication

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Free PMC article

Neural Correlates of Risk Perception During Real-Life Risk Communication

Ralf Schmälzle et al. J Neurosci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

During global health crises, such as the recent H1N1 pandemic, the mass media provide the public with timely information regarding risk. To obtain new insights into how these messages are received, we measured neural data while participants, who differed in their preexisting H1N1 risk perceptions, viewed a TV report about H1N1. Intersubject correlation (ISC) of neural time courses was used to assess how similarly the brains of viewers responded to the TV report. We found enhanced intersubject correlations among viewers with high-risk perception in the anterior cingulate, a region which classical fMRI studies associated with the appraisal of threatening information. By contrast, neural coupling in sensory-perceptual regions was similar for the high and low H1N1-risk perception groups. These results demonstrate a novel methodology for understanding how real-life health messages are processed in the human brain, with particular emphasis on the role of emotion and differences in risk perceptions.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Analysis scheme for intersubject correlation (ISC) group analysis. First, the voxel-by-voxel time courses from every subject within each group are correlated with the averaged time course of all other subjects to obtain ISC maps for each group. Second, to directly compare the strength of ISC across groups, ISC values from the first analysis step are extracted for every viewer and contrasted between groups. Statistical values are then corrected for multiple-comparisons and displayed.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Reliable brain responses within each risk perception group. ISCs among participants with high (red) and low (blue) H1N1 risk perception. The overlap of both analyses is shown in purple. Both maps reveal significantly correlated neural responses in widespread brain regions, extending far beyond primary sensory representation areas into higher-order cortex. Data are FDR corrected and presented on the averaged structural MRI.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
A, Significant differences in ISC between viewers with high versus low H1N1 risk perception. Significantly greater ISC was found among viewers with high compared with low H1N1 risk perception in pgACC and adMCC, indicating that the H1N1 report engaged these regions more consistently when viewers had a greater risk perception (FDR corrected). B, Comparison between parametric and nonparametric analyses. A comparison between the parametric ISC-difference (yellow) and the nonparametric group permutation test (red, both p < 0.0025) reveals agreement between the two complementary statistical procedures (overlap in orange).
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
A, Nonparametric group permutation of ISC differences in regions of interest. Each viewer was randomly assigned to either the pseudo-high-risk or pseudo-low-risk group and ISC analysis was performed for each group. The plots represent the distribution of the ISC-group-difference (ISChigh risk − ISClow risk), computed using random groups. The red line represents the veridical ISC-group difference resulting when each viewer was assigned to the “true” groups based on individual perceptions of being at risk. As can be seen, nonparametric testing confirmed highly significant group differences for the pgACC and adMCC. By contrast, the obtained veridical ISC differences for the two sensory regions were low (< 0.1) and not significantly different between groups. B, Nonparametric permutation tests conducted for the first, second, third, and fourth quartile of the 30 min long H1N1 documentary. C, Comparison of the dynamic range of the fMRI responses. Time courses were sampled from the ROIs and SDs computed to quantify the amount of signal variation. Bars and error bars, mean and SD across observers. D, ISC result maps during control stimulus viewing. Significantly correlated neural responses are present in widespread brain regions, extending far beyond primary sensory representation areas into higher-order cortex (p < 10−6). Notably, the strength and regional distribution of correlated neural time courses was similar for both groups.
Figure 5.
Figure 5.
Overlap between major brain networks and ISC result maps. Circles indicate the seed regions for functional connectivity analysis. The resulting functional networks are presented side by side with the ISC maps for viewers with low (blue) and high (red) H1N1 risk perception, respectively. The ACC evinces more reliable responses among participants with a high H1N1 risk perception. Note, that differences in the thresholded ISC maps for each group do not constitute a formal statistical test of between-group differences (Fig. 3). Slice coordinates: Salience, y = 21; executive control, z = 35; default mode, z = 30; visual, x = −4; auditory, x = −53; dorsal attention, z = 36.

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