Neural correlates of risk perception during real-life risk communication

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Communication*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype
  • Influenza, Human / psychology
  • Influenza, Human / transmission
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Oxygen