This
year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco
Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while
they were watching the Super Bowl ads.

Commercials
are a part of our lives. We watch them, enjoy them, and discuss them
with our friends. Do commercials make us buy the product they advertise?
Nobody really knows. The most anticipated ‘ad experience’ is watching
the Super Bowl ads. After the game, there is a flurry of opinions from
marketing experts and focus groups of what was the most effective Super
Bowl ad. This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center,
Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they
watched the Super Bowl ads. The way fMRI works is relatively simple:
different levels of cerebral blood oxygenation have different magnetic
properties. Moreover, changes in blood oxygenation correlate with changes
in neural activity. Thus, without using any contrast agent, fMRI can
measure how much brain areas are activated during sensory, cognitive
and motor experiences. 

This very
first attempt at doing ‘instant-science’ is a collaborative effort between
Marco Iacoboni’s group — a leading group in functional neuroimaging
— and FKF Applied Research, a marketing firm. The main idea behind
this project is that there is often a disconnect between what people
say about what they like — and the real, underlying deeper motives
that make us want and like some things and some people, but not others.
With fMRI, it is possible to look at unfiltered brain responses, to
measure how the ads shown today elicit emotions, induce empathy, and
inspire liking and wanting. So, to put it bluntly:

Who
really won the Super Bowl?

Here is
Iacoboni’s answer.

By
Marco Iacoboni