Self-reported experiences of discrimination in older black adults are associated with insula functional connectivity

Brain Imaging Behav. 2021 Aug;15(4):1718-1727. doi: 10.1007/s11682-020-00365-9.


Self-reported experiences of discrimination are associated with a number of negative health outcomes. However, the neurobiological correlates of discrimination remain elusive. Recent neuroimaging work suggests that the amygdala is sensitive to forms of social adversity and the insula is involved in assessments of trust. We hypothesized that functional connectivity (FC) of these brain regions may be associated with discrimination in older Black adults. One-hundred and twenty-four nondemented older Black adults participating in the Minority Aging Research Study or the Clinical Core study of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center completed a measure of self-reported experiences of discrimination and a 3T MRI brain scan including structural T1 and resting-state fMRI EPIBOLD sequences. The right and left amygdala and insula regions were anatomically delineated as ROIs according to the Harvard-Oxford Brain Atlas and whole-brain voxelwise FC analyses were conducted using default parameters in the CONN toolbox. In regression analyses controlling for demographics and global cognition, self-reported experiences of discrimination were associated with greater FC between the left insula and the bilateral intracalcarine cortex, weaker FC between the left insula and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and weaker FC between the right insula and the left supplementary motor area. Amygdala analyses yielded no significant findings. Greater self-reported experiences of discrimination are associated with differential insula functional connectivity in older adults. More specifically, results suggest that discrimination is associated with differential connectivity of a key region (the insula) involved in trust perception.

Keywords: Discrimination; Functional connectivity; Insula; Resting-state fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Self Report