The current study examined blood oxygen level-dependent signal underlying racial differences in threat detection. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants determined whether pictures of Black or White individuals held weapons. They were instructed to make shoot responses when the picture showed armed individuals but don't shoot responses to unarmed individuals, with the cost of not shooting armed individuals being greater than that of shooting unarmed individuals. Participants were faster to shoot armed Blacks than Whites, but faster in making don't shoot responses to unarmed Whites than Blacks. Brain activity differed to armed versus unarmed targets depending on target race, suggesting different mechanisms underlying threat versus safety decisions. Anterior cingulate cortex was preferentially engaged for unarmed Whites than Blacks. Parietal and visual cortical regions exhibited greater activity for armed Blacks than Whites. Seed-based functional connectivity of the amygdala revealed greater coherence with parietal and visual cortices for armed Blacks than Whites. Furthermore, greater implicit Black-danger associations were associated with increased amygdala activation to armed Blacks, compared to armed Whites. Our results suggest that different neural mechanisms may underlie racial differences in responses to armed versus unarmed targets.
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