Being Carl Marci

Knowing what I know about my brain now, it would be difficult for me to say when I first realized Dr. Carl Marci would be the perfect guest editor for this issue, but at least I know where it happened. Not geographically, but anatomically. It happened somewhere in my hippocampus, the region of the brain where important memories form and are stored. Actually, as Dr. Marci explains, the thought of having him guest edit this issue most likely happened in several areas of my brain, including its emotional and empathy parts, as well as the mirror neurons that are part of the complex array of 100 billion neurons that comprise our brain and somehow work together to form complex thoughts that manifest in complex ways, primarily in the prefrontal cortex.

I know that may seem like a lot of technical medical mumbo jumbo, but I thought it was important for you to think about, because the science that is beginning to emerge around that anatomy and the scientists who are uncovering it, are leading to a new understanding about how people think and feel, and especially, how and why those thoughts and feelings make us do things - including using media, processing advertising messages and connecting with brands. We've tried to annotate some of those key areas of the brain as they relate to how people use media and we chose to do it with the image of Dr. Marci. We did that to humanize what they are in a way we can all empathize with and connect to. And if you take anything away from this issue, I would hope that it is fundamentally not about anatomy, science, technology, or even media, but about being human. It was just that desire that led Dr. Marci into the field of neuroscience. As a young doctor he became concerned about the way doctors and patients communicate - or quite frequently fail to. That led him to explore how new biometric techniques could be used to measure how our bodies - especially our brains - form cognitive thoughts and emotional feelings that influence that process. The a-ha moment occurred in his brain while Dr. Marci was watching an episode of Sex and the City with a friend. Using a monitor to measure their heart rates and skin sweat, Dr. Marci realized the signals could be consistently correlated to their emotional responses to what they were watching.

"We were 'caught up' in the story, and our mirror neurons transported us to the mind's eye of the characters," he recalls. "And I realized at that moment that this is likely the mechanism explaining the huge popularity of television entertainment."

Dr. Marci got to test and improve his hypothesis as the director of social neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and continues in a similar role at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he also is a practicing psychiatrist - when he and his Innerscope cofounder, Brian Levine, aren't conducting research for some of the biggest brands and media companies in the world.

About a year ago, when I started to understand what Dr. Marci was working on and what he was uncovering, I asked him why he made the leap from patient/doctor communications to media/brand communication and why he wasn't using it to fix bigger, more fundamental problems in the world, like, say, the communications breakdowns that contribute to war and human suffering. His response was, "Give me time." That's probably when all that gelatinous brain matter in my head really told me, "This guy should edit MEDIA magazine."

One of the things you never know when you ask a "non-journalist" to guest-edit a magazine, is how proficient they will be in the actual conceptualization and editing of stories. Here Dr. Marci surprised me, too, and at some point in the process I confided that he could always get a job as a journalist if "the brain thing doesn't work out." He told me that journalism was actually his "second choice," but I think he only did that to soothe my empathy center.

The only time Dr. Marci and I had a conflict during this issue is when I added an 11th-hour element about some breaking news his archrival, NeuroFocus' A.K. Pradeep, made about promising new brain-wave-measurement technology. Dr. Marci was adamant that we add a statement from his partner, Levine, and I appealed that it wasn't the right place to do that, especially since Dr. Marci would be all over this issue. So I told him I would add it here in this intro because, after all, Dr. Marci is a human being and has emotions too. Here it is, if you'd like to cross-reference it to page 61.

Innerscope president and cofounder Levine, who participated in the NeuroStandards Collaboration and whose company uses medical-grade biometric measures, expressed optimism about the ARF project. "There is a wide variability in the quality of the technology, the quality of the science and ultimately, the quality of the results in neuromarketing. The ARF effort is good for the entire industry." Levine notes that Innerscope, which continues to do work with NBC Universal, is the only company that participated in the NeuroStandards Collaboration and went through a rigorous independent ARF review process in 2009. "We believe that third-party review is critical to give our clients confidence in our tools and in our results."

Tags: media
Recommend (3) Print RSS