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Favorite brands as cultural objects modulate reward circuit

Schaefer, Michael; Rotte, Michael

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328010ac84
Brain Imaging

On the basis of the hypothesis that brands may function as reward stimuli, we investigated brain responses to favorite brands. Participants viewed brand logos while we measured cortical activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results revealed activity in the striatum for favorite brands that positively correlated with sports and luxury characteristics, but negatively with attributions to a brand of rational choice. Reduced activation of a single region in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was demonstrated when viewing the most beloved brand, possibly suggesting reduced strategic reasoning on the basis of affect. The results propose that brands that have been associated with appetitive stimuli owing to marketing efforts engage brain networks similar to those engaged by artificially associated reward stimuli. Moreover, social stimuli may function as secondary inducers of reward mechanisms.

Department of Neurology II, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr Michael Schaefer, PhD, Department of Neurology II, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany

Tel: +49 391 6721746; fax: +49 391 6715233; e-mail: mischa@neuro2.med.uni-magdeburg.de

Sponsorship: M.S. was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Scha105/1-3) and M.R. was supported by BMBF-grant 01GO0202 (CAI).

Received 18 July 2006; accepted 8 September 2006

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