Leveraging Neuroscience for Business Impact

Program Overview

As technological advances reshape business in nearly every industry, many companies are still basing important decisions on questionnaires, focus groups, card swipes, and GPS tracking. But there are new, more accurate sources of information. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience are helping us understand more about what holds people's attention and what motivates them. The real and potential business applications are astounding.

Grounded in the latest research of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative and based on Wharton’s Introduction to Brain Science for Business MBA course, this program presents a unique opportunity to learn directly from the scientists who are making new discoveries.

Leveraging Neuroscience for Business Impact will show you how the brain works and how to apply neuroscience principles in your organization to shape and improve management, team-building, and innovation.

Academic Director Michael Platt says neuroscience can improve management in myriad ways.

Program Experience

Program Highlights & Benefits

In Leveraging Neuroscience for Business Impact, you will:

  • Discover how neuroscience reveals what consumers really think and pay attention to and what motivates them
  • Learn how neuroscience can enhance talent identification, improve team selection, monitor training, enhance on boarding and cultural fit, enrich marketing and communication strategies, and improve client relationships
  • Improve leadership capabilities by understanding the science of decision-making, including how neural constraints can lead to poor decisions and how to overcome them
  • Apply brain training and cognitive enhancement within your organization to improve productivity, cultural fit, and job satisfaction
  • Gain hands-on experience designing choice sets that shape consumer and investor decisions

Businesses as People: Academic Director Michael Platt on how consumers build empathy with companies

Experience & Impact

This highly interactive program begins with an overview of contemporary brain science. You will learn the basics of neuroscience and become familiar with important techniques for measuring and manipulating brain function. An interdisciplinary team of Wharton faculty will share major findings in neuroscience with applications to business, including selective attention and advertising; valuation and marketing; decision-making and the tyranny of choice; learning, innovation, and creativity; user experience and product design; and social influence, team building, and leadership.

A blend of lectures, case studies, experiential sessions, and small-group work will help you begin to apply the latest insights from neuroscience to your organizational challenges. Participants will also work closely with one other and with faculty on a project to develop new ideas for neuroscience applications. The project culminates in a pitch session on the final day that will be critiqued by the group. You will leave the program with an actionable plan and a new network of highly experienced peers and faculty experts that you can access into the future.

Session topics include:

  • Tools of the Trade: How to Measure and Manipulate Brain Function
  • The Neuroscience of Decision-Making: Tools for the C-Suite
  • Vision and Attention for Design and Advertising
  • The Social Brain: Cultivating Leadership and Building Team Chemistry
  • The Neuroscience of Motivation and Engagement: Beyond the Focus Group
  • Managing Innovation through Brain Science
  • Brain Training and Performance Enhancement

Listen to audio clip

Listen to Faculty Interview:

Professor Michael Platt talks about Leveraging Neuroscience for Business Impact on Wharton Business Radio, SiriusXM.

Who Should Attend

Under the Hood: Professor Michael Platt says this program goes beyond scientific theory to understanding human behavior.

Participants in this program are executives responsible for driving top-line growth, managing portfolios, leading innovation, or creating new business models. Specific industries that will benefit from program content include but are not limited to pharmaceuticals and health care, marketing, manufacturing and consumer products, and financial services.

Potential job titles and roles include:

  • Director, senior director, vice president of large corporations
  • CEO, president, senior vice president, general manager of mid-size enterprises
  • Founders or CEOs of rapidly growing, successful entrepreneurial ventures
  • Government and military professionals
  • Managers in strategy, marketing, and R&D

Fluency in English, written and spoken, is required for participation in Wharton Executive Education programs unless otherwise indicated.

Group Enrollment

To further leverage the value and impact of this program, we encourage companies to send cross-functional teams of executives to Wharton. We offer group enrollment benefits to companies sending four or more participants.


What part of the brain is responsible for decision making?

When we are confronted with a choice, the cerebral cortex first decodes the perceptual properties of the options available. By comparing current options with our memories, as well as our current internal state, our brains assign value to the options, which are represented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum. The options with the highest value are then typically selected for choice by the prefrontal cortex. To aid these processes, the parietal cortex uses prior experience to focus attention on the most relevant and valuable options. All of this takes place across distributed networks connecting sensory input to motor output. Consequently, disorders involving different parts of the brain can produce distinct kinds of impairments in decision making, from impulsivity to problem gambling and other forms of addiction.

What is the reward center of the brain called?

There isn’t one reward center of the brain. Instead, there is a network of reward areas. One of these, the ventral tegmental area, is a part of the midbrain that produces dopamine, an important neurotransmitter needed to predict rewards and learn how to acquire them. Dopamine is transmitted to many different areas of the brain — in particular, the prefrontal cortex and striatum — to motivate behavior, guide learning, and make decisions. Remarkably, most parts of the brain are sensitive to reward, so processes from perception, attention, and memory to emotion can be focused on making decisions that acquire rewards and avoid punishments.

Which part of the brain is responsible for motivation?

The mesolimbic pathway, originating in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, is key to motivation. This pathway uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to motivate goal-directed behavior. Motivation is different from pleasure and also different from reward. Motivation is the internal drive to achieve a goal or obtain a reward. Dopamine increases during anticipation and provides the drive to obtain a desired goal. There is another part of the frontal lobe, the anterior cingulate cortex, that drives the extreme motivation necessary to do the difficult or impossible — like climb a mountain or run a marathon.

What does neuroscience have to do with leadership development and business management?

Neuroscience has a lot of relevance for leading and managing companies and teams. Neuroscience can help inform how we work best with others, build effective teams, and overcome bias, just to name a few leadership traits. The social brain network is specialized for managing our connections with others, and activation in this network underlies attention to others, empathy, and cooperation.

Neuroscience also provides an alternative way of looking at traditional leadership hierarchy within business settings. In fact, high status within a social hierarchy is associated with less activity in the social brain network, impairing the development of good working relationships. Using these kinds of observations, neuroscience can help inform the mechanisms that lead to better business decision making and optimized business practices that improve productivity, reduce stress, and lower employee turnover.


Michael Platt, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Academic Director

Director, the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative; James S. Riepe University Professor, Marketing Department, the Wharton School; Department of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine; Department of Psychology, School of Arts and Sciences; the University of Pennsylvania

Emily Falk, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Associate Professor of Communication, Associate Professor of Psychology, The University of Pennsylvania; Associate Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School

Elizabeth Johnson, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Executive Director & Senior Fellow, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, The Wharton School

Joe Kable, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Baird Term Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

Gideon Nave, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Assistant Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Computational neuroscience, cognitive psychology, game theory, machine learning

Dates, Cost, & Location

May 13 - 16, 2019Philadelphia, PA$9,100

Download the program schedule, including session details.

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Logistics Information

Tuition for this program includes lodging and most meals. Prices are subject to change.

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