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Prog Brain Res. 2009;178:241-52. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(09)17817-2.

Neuroeconomics: in search of the neural representation of brands.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.


In modern economy the customer is confronted with a huge amount of consumer goods. In this situation, culturally based brands seem to play an important role in establishing strong emotional bonds between customers and goods and to guide people's economic behavior by biasing selections and preference decisions based on affect. Recently, neuroscientific approaches have demonstrated that cultural objects like brands or brand-related behavior may successfully be investigated with neuroimaging tools like fMRI. First studies suggested that structures associated with the reward circuit (striatum) and the dorsolateral part of the prefrontal cortex may be involved when perceiving a favorite brand. Hence, brands that have been associated with appetitive stimuli due to marketing efforts or cultural factors seem to engage similar brain networks than artificially associated reward stimuli. However, brands have different and complex meanings in our life far beyond representing objects of desire. For example, the possession of goods from certain kinds of brands often is used to mark the social state of the owner and to distinguish him or her from other groups. In particular, luxury goods often seem to have this function. Recent neuroimaging results support this observation by showing that viewing logos of luxury brands is associated with brain activity in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, a region known to be associated with self-centered cognitions. Thus, it seems that brands of luxury goods improve self-relevant thoughts, pointing to the role of luxury brands to mark the superior position of the owner in society. These results demonstrate that cultural symbols like brands can successfully be examined with neuroimaging approaches. Thus, along with advanced cultural theories, neuroeconomics may provide important contributions to the understanding of brand-related or economic behavior.

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