An-Li Wang, PhD
- ASSISTANT PROFESSOR | Psychiatry
PhD, University of Oxford
Postdoc, University of Pennsylvania
Neuroscience and public health communications
Televised public service announcement (PSA) or health messages are a key component of health campaigns promoting desired behaviors in general public. However, their impact in the field has been modest at best, despite strong theoretical basis and extensive cross-sectional surveys. Thus, better understanding in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the brain processing of persuasive information and more efficient ways to evaluate the effectiveness of these messages are urgently needed. I was among the first to apply neuroscience knowledge and methodology to study public health communications. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), I demonstrated that the key health communications concepts of message sensation value and argument strength had brain correlates that predicted the impact of anti-smoking PSAs on smoking behavior, indexed by the urine cotinine level. The high translational significance of this study was highlighted in the NIDA Notes and the Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Also, I conducted electroencephalograph (EEG) and fMRI studies investigating the neurobiological effects of emotional graphic cigarette warning labels (GWLs) on cognition and behavioral correlates of smoking in adult smokers, as the debate surrounding graphic warnings was evolving. These findings provided the first biological evidence supporting that emotional salience is essential to the effectiveness of GWLs and is likely to influence the future regulation of tobacco product packaging in the US.
Effect of opioid antagonist treatment on cue reactivity and social cognition
Opioid antagonist treatment has been gaining acceptance as an alternative to opioid maintenance treatment of opioid use disorder in the US and worldwide. Yet, its effect on cue reactivity (an important indicator of relapse) and social cognition such as caregiving remains largely unknown. My colleagues and I used a validated cognitive probe to study the effects of long-acting preparation of an opioid antagonist naltrexone on the brain and behavioral response to baby schema in men and women with chronic opioid use disorder, as well as studied the predictive value of neural activities in respond to drug-related cues to treatment adherence. Our studies provided preliminary data on an understudied aspect of opioid addiction and opioid antagonist treatment response. We found that opioid antagonist treatment modulates the brain fMRI response to drug-related cues and that adherence to treatment can be predicted by the baseline brain fMRI response to drug cues.
Pain perception and functional significance of sensory ERPs in healthy subjects
When ERPs are elicited by pairs or trains of stimuli delivered at short inter‐stimulus intervals (ISIs), the magnitude of the ERP elicited by the repeated stimuli is markedly reduced, a phenomenon known as response decrement. While the interval between two consecutive stimuli becomes longer, the reduced response is recovered. Thus, this phenomenon has been traditionally interpreted in terms of neural refractoriness of generators of ERPs (“neural refractoriness hypothesis”). A series of my ERP studies, however, challenge this neural refractoriness hypothesis by manipulating the preceding events of the eliciting stimulus.