Skip to main content
Presentation Time: 12:20-12:40
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Dr. Eva Telzer, Psychology
Program: McNair
Research Title: Investigating the Mediating Role of Brain Activation in the Relationship Between Racial Discrimination and Adolescent Risk-Taking Behaviors

Racial discrimination greatly impacts the mental and physical well-being of an individual. Adolescents who identify as racial minorities may be especially vulnerable to the effects of racial discrimination because of the significant neurodevelopmental and social changes that occur during adolescence. Previous studies have shown discrimination may influence risk taking behaviors, however no study to date has assessed the impact of the brain in explaining this relationship. The current study assessed the mediating role of insula and temporoparietal junction (TPJ) activation in the relationship between racial discrimination and health risk/prosocial behaviors, two regions that are involved in salience processing and perspective taking, respectively. Participants included 95 racially diverse adolescents (52% female) from ages 14 -16 years. Self-report questionnaires were used to measure experiences of racial discrimination, health risk behaviors, and prosocial risk behaviors. In the functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner adolescents completed a risk-taking task where they took risks for themselves and close others. Using a mediation regression model, results suggested racial discrimination does not predict prosocial/health risk behaviors, nor did insula and TPJ activation mediate this relationship. However, racial discrimination did predict insula/TPJ activation during risk-taking for others. Taken together, findings suggest racial discrimination is associated with the neural processing of how adolescents perceive others.