4 years ago

How real-life health messages engage our brains: Shared processing of effective anti-alcohol videos.

Imhof MA, Schmälzle R, Schupp HT, Renner B
Health communication via mass media is an important strategy when targeting risky drinking, but many questions remain about how health messages are processed and how they unfold their effects within receivers. Here we examine how the brains of young adults - a key target group for alcohol prevention - 'tune in' to real-life health prevention messages about risky alcohol use. In a first study, a large sample of authentic public service announcements (PSAs) targeting the risks of alcohol was characterized using established measures of message effectiveness. In the main study, we used inter-subject correlation analysis of fMRI data to examine brain responses to more and less effective PSAs in a sample of young adults. We find that more effective messages command more similar responses within widespread brain regions, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, insulae, and precuneus. In previous research these regions have been related to narrative engagement, self-relevance, and attention towards salient stimuli. The present study thus suggests that more effective health prevention messages have greater 'neural reach', i.e. they engage the brains of audience members' more widely. This work outlines a promising strategy for assessing the effects of health communication at a neural level.

Publisher URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28402568

DOI: PubMed:28402568

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