The BrightHouse Institute's techniques are based, in part, on an experiment that Kilts conducted earlier this year. He gathered a group of test subjects and asked them to look at a series of commercial products, rating how strongly they liked or disliked them. Then, while scanning their brains in an M.R.I. machine, he showed them pictures of the products again. When Kilts looked at the images of their brains, he was struck by one particular result: whenever a subject saw a product he had identified as one he truly loved something that might prompt him to say, "That's just so me!" his brain would show increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.
Kilts was excited, for he knew that this region of the brain is commonly associated with our sense of self. Patients with damage in this area of the brain, for instance, often undergo drastic changes in personality; in one famous case, a mild-mannered 19th-century railworker named Phineas Gage abruptly became belligerent after an accident that destroyed his medial prefrontal cortex. More recently, M.R.I. studies have found increased activity in this region when people are asked if adjectives like "trustworthy" or "courageous" apply to them. When the medial prefrontal cortex fires, your brain seems to be engaging, in some manner, with what sort of person you are. If it fires when you see a particular product, Kilts argues, it's most likely to be because the product clicks with your self-image.
Clive Thompson, "There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex," The New York Times, October 26, 2003
KELLY: Companies didn't want to talk to us about ZMET, and it remains a secret who's using neuromarketing. That doesn't surprise Allan Middleton.
MIDDLETON: Some of these techniques are controversial because they are trying to get at people's less than totally conscious and less than totally rational response. And in a way, in a lot of people's minds, that sends up signals of subliminal communication and manipulation.
Margo Kelly, "The science of shopping," Marketplace (CBC TV), December 3, 2002
BrightHouse Institute has begun using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a technology traditionally used in health care to create images of activity within the brain, to reveal how people feel about things, such as products and commercials, more accurately than those people can explain their feelings in focus groups and surveys.
"'Neuromarketing' firm launched by Atlanta ad veteran," Atlanta Business Chronicle, June 14, 2002