The neural bases of sport fan reactions to teams: Evidence from a neuroimaging study

Ricardo Cayolla, Rui Biscaia, Roy F. Baumeister, Marc Fetscherin, Sónia Brito-Costa, Isabel Catarina Duarte, Miguel Cstelo-Branco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


This study uses neuroimaging methods to identify patterns of brain activation among sport fans in reaction to team stimuli. In a whole-brain analysis without selected regions in advance, the purposes were to identify the structures involved when fans are exposed to positive, neutral, and negative events and to learn what events activate more limbic networks. A total of 53 individuals participated in and functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment involving the presentation of videos in various situations. Findings indicate the activation of the cingulate gyrus and other structures of the limbic system, as the hippocampus and parahippocampus. We also found involvement of the ventral tegmental area of the reward system. Additionally, brain activity in emotional regulation and memory areas were more influenced by positive than neutral and negative videos. It was also found the involvement of other areas not directly included in the limbic or reward systems. This study provides the neural basis of fan reactions to team-related stimuli. Sport clubs should be aware that negative content seems to be suppressed from emotional memory and positive videos trigger more emotion and memory areas than neutral and negative videos.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-854
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Consumer Behaviour
Issue number2
Early online date16 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Aaron Ahuvia, Carolyn Yoon, Alexander Genevsky, Hang-Yee Chan and Ale Smidts for their support and feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.


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