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Research recently reported in Scientific American shows that work by Gregory Berns of Emory University supports the conclusion that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of brain activity while listening to music produce data that can predict subsequent sales. In particular, Berns isolated a portion of the brain called the nucleus accumbens whose activity in 27 teenagers listening to music correlated to subsequent sales of those songs several years later.

This kind of research could break new ground for media researchers ranging from radio stations to streaming service such as Pandora seeking an edge in understanding audience tastes and emerging preferences. Of course, the implications extend beyond music preferences to any type of user experience and engagement with media content including program content, commercial advertising content and even user-generated content.

As neuroscience has become more popular in the media field for those seeking to better understand consumer psychology and behavior, this new research direction shows promise. Groups such as the Advertising Research Foundation have been supporting collaboration in developing standards and practices in neuroscience research to make these methodologies more accessible and practical for use by those in the media and advertising industries.

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