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Neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience: contributions to neurology

Andrija Javor1*, Monika Koller2, Nick Lee3, Laura Chamberlain3 and Gerhard Ransmayr1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Linz General Hospital, Krankenhausstrasse 9, 4021, Linz, Austria

2 Department of Marketing Institute for Marketing Management, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Augasse 2-6, Vienna, 1090, Austria

3 Aston Business School, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET, United Kingdom

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Citation and License

BMC Neurology 2013, 13:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-13

Published: 6 February 2013



‘Neuromarketing’ is a term that has often been used in the media in recent years. These public discussions have generally centered around potential ethical aspects and the public fear of negative consequences for society in general, and consumers in particular. However, positive contributions to the scientific discourse from developing a biological model that tries to explain context-situated human behavior such as consumption have often been neglected. We argue for a differentiated terminology, naming commercial applications of neuroscientific methods ‘neuromarketing’ and scientific ones ‘consumer neuroscience’. While marketing scholars have eagerly integrated neuroscientific evidence into their theoretical framework, neurology has only recently started to draw its attention to the results of consumer neuroscience.


In this paper we address key research topics of consumer neuroscience that we think are of interest for neurologists; namely the reward system, trust and ethical issues. We argue that there are overlapping research topics in neurology and consumer neuroscience where both sides can profit from collaboration. Further, neurologists joining the public discussion of ethical issues surrounding neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience could contribute standards and experience gained in clinical research.


We identify the following areas where consumer neuroscience could contribute to the field of neurology:

First, studies using game paradigms could help to gain further insights into the underlying pathophysiology of pathological gambling in Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, epilepsy, and Huntington’s disease.

Second, we identify compulsive buying as a common interest in neurology and consumer neuroscience. Paradigms commonly used in consumer neuroscience could be applied to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and frontotemporal dementia to advance knowledge of this important behavioral symptom.

Third, trust research in the medical context lacks empirical behavioral and neuroscientific evidence. Neurologists entering this field of research could profit from the extensive knowledge of the biological foundation of trust that scientists in economically-orientated neurosciences have gained.

Fourth, neurologists could contribute significantly to the ethical debate about invasive methods in neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience. Further, neurologists should investigate biological and behavioral reactions of neurological patients to marketing and advertising measures, as they could show special consumer vulnerability and be subject to target marketing.

Neuromarketing; Neurology; Consumer neuroscience; Trust; Reward; Ethics; Pathological gambling; Compulsive buying