Changes in intrinsic functional connectivity and group relevant salience: The case of sport rivalry

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Studies have shown that attending to salient group relevant information could increase the BOLD activity across distributed neural networks. However, it is unclear how attending to group relevant information changes the functional connectivity across these networks. We investigated this issue combining resting states and task-based fMRI experiment. The task involved football fans learning associations between arbitrary geometric shapes and the badges of in-group, the rival and the neutral football teams. Upon learning, participants viewed different badge/shape pairs and their task was to judge whether the viewed pair was a match or a mismatch. For whole brain analyses increased activity was found in the IFG, DLPFC, AI, fusiform gyrus, precuneus and pSTS (all in the left hemisphere) for the rival over the in-group mismatch. Further, the ROI analyses revealed larger beta-values for the rival badge in the left pSTS, left AI and the left IFG. However, larger beta-values were found in the left pSTS and the left IFG (but not AI) for the in-group shape. The intrinsic functional connectivity analyses revealed that compare to the pre-task, post task functional connectivity was decreased between the left DLPFC and the left AI. In contrast, it was increased between the left IFG and the left AI and this was correlated with the difference in RT for the rival vs. in-group team. Our findings suggest that attending to group relevant information differentially affects the strength of functional coupling in attention networks and this can be explained by the saliency of the group relevant information.

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