Your Brain on Super Bowl Ad

[ Sat. Feb. 11. 2006 ]

Edge.org has an article titled "Who Really Won the Super Bowl?" by Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the U.C.L.A. Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. Dr. Iacoboni and his colleagues used fast magnetic resonance imaging technology to observe brain responses to commercials shown during the Super Bowl.

The overwhelming winner among the Super Bowl ads is the Disney-NFL "I am going to Disney" ad. The Disney ad elicited strong responses in orbito-frontal cortex and ventral striatum, two brain regions associated with processing of rewards. Also, the Disney ad induced robust responses in mirror neuron areas, indicating identification and empathy. Further, the circuit for cognitive control, encompassing anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was highly active while watching the Disney ad....

The three biggest flops seem to be the Burger King ad, the FedEx ad, and the GoDaddy ad. Three quite interesting features that come out of this instant study are the following: first, people — when interviewed — tend to say what they are expected to say, but their brain seems to say the opposite. For instance, female subjects may give verbally very low "grades" to ads using actresses in sexy roles, but their mirror neuron areas seem to fire up quite a bit, suggesting some form of identification and empathy. Second ... we saw strong habituation effects, such that the second time around the commercial induces much weaker responses. Third — and this is probably interesting to neuroscientists — among brain regions associated with complex social behavior, we observed a mix of activation and de-activation.

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