The application of Neuroscience in Marketing*

2 de Março de 2012

Categoria: Inglês

The objective of neuroscience is to understand the mind – how we perceive, how we move, think and remember. Its study describes as much the physical mechanics of the processes that occur inside the nervous system, as its capacity to alter the functioning of the motor system and perception in relation to changes in the environment. In short, the objective of the studies carried out in this field is to understand the relation between our human functioning, the medium we are placed into and the form in which we respond or adjust ourselves to such stimulus.

In marketing, the innovation arises from the combination of several recent areas of science and technology which are very important to the economy, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, Information Technology (IT) and neuroscience (or the cognitive sciences). These are the main areas in which we observe scientific production in neuroscience in Brazil.

How does research in neuroscience work?

Research in neuroscience is nothing new in the country. It was begun way back in the middle of the last century by study groups formed in Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) and Universidade de São Paulo (USP) / Ribeirão Preto. During the 1970s, other institutions began research in the area, such as Escola Paulista de Medicina (EPM – UNIFESP) and the Universidade de Brasília (UnB). These institutions remained as some of the main centers of research in neuroscience in the country and others, with considerable scientific production in the area, came later on to join these. See Table 1.

Research in neuroscience associates the traditional method of investigative, quantitative and qualitative research with the use of structured questionnaires, brain imaging generated by magnetic resonance and the study of the electrical properties in cells and tissues that, in neuroscience, includes the measuring of the electrical activity of neurons and particularly the potential action activity, using electrodes to stimulate and record the reaction of nerve cells, or of the larger areas of the brain.

Neuromarketing, neuroeconomy, neuroengineering and other “neuros”

“Neuroeconomy” is the term that describes the association of the theories of economy, psychology and neuroscience, in the attempt to better understand the decision making mechanisms of individuals. The first studies were initiated during the 1990s. Since 2011, the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) has had a research center where they use tools that analyze brain reaction and cross-reference this analysis with research data. Using electroencephalograms (among other resources) communication actions are buoyed between supplier and consumer (as described by the Foundation).

Another line of research is neuroengineering, a discipline within bio-medical engineering which uses engineering techniques to develop neural prosthesis used in the rehabilitation of patients that suffer from corporal paralysis, with significant work published by the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), taking as an example the research of professor dr. Miguel Ângelo Laporta Nicolelis in the field of organ and systems physiology, in the attempt to integrate the human brain with machines (neuroprosthesis or brain-machine interfaces), as yet without any application to marketing, but with great potential.


The study of decision processes and of how the mind makes its choices will allow us to understand the conscious and unconscious patterns of consumer spending and buying, as well as the processes of negotiation and even risk analysis, thereby suggesting new paradigms in the realignment of advertising, merchandising and shopper marketing and, thus, its importance for current marketing practices as tools for persuading the public.

The application of neuroscience in marketing is one of the vectors of research in the world. What has already been published on the functioning of the brain is still a very small part in comparison to the scientific production underway on this matter. Nevertheless, little has moved forward in the debates over the moral limits and ethical barriers in context with society. Using such knowledge to boost purchases and influence decisions tends to raise questions as yet not touched upon by the publicity segment and marketing services, which basically self-regulate the industry. Our role is to discuss and debate the issues with responsibility.

For those wishing to delve deeper into the the debate on the subject, “The Decisive
Moment”, by Jonah Lehrer, published in Brazil by Best Business(publishing) is well worth

Centers of Excellence and Research in Neuroscience in Brazil

Subject Department University
Memory BiochemistryPhysiologyExperimental Psychology ICB -USPUFRGSICB-USPIP-USP
Psycho-pharmacology(anxiety, depression, animal models for mental illness, pharmacological properties of natural products) Psycho-biologyPsycho-biologyPharmacologyExperimental PsychologyPhysiology UNIFESPFFCLRP-USPUFSCIP-USPFM-USP


Visual System(development, neurochemistry, morphology, electro-physiology, behavior in animal models, human psycho-physics NeurobiologyPhysiologyExperimental PsychologyPhysiology/MorphologyPsychology






BehaviorAnimal and neuroetology Experimental PsychologyZoologyPsycho-biologyPsychology IP-USPUFMGUFRNUFSC
Epilepsy Physiology, NeurologyPsycho-biologyPsycho-biologyPhysiology UNIFESPUNIFESPFFCLRP-USPUFPR
Morpho-functional organization of the nervous system(development, morphology, plasticity) NeurobiologyAnatomyPhysiology/Anatomy/HistologyPhysiology/MorphologyNeuro-immunology IBCCF-UFRJIBCCF-UFRJCB-USPCCB-UFRJUFF
Sleep and chrono-biology Psycho-biologyClinical PhysiologyPhysiology and Biophysics UNIFESPFM-USPICB-USP
Nutrition PsychiatryPharmacology UFPEFFCLRP-USP
Mental IllnessSchizophrenia, panic syndrome FM-USPCB-USP
Computable Neuroscience Electricity EP-USPIF-USPIF-UFSC

*Rafael D’Andrea and Eduardo Marques
Originally published at Mundo do Marketing website in 3/2/2012