When we showed subjects the words "Democrat," "Republican" and "independent," they exhibited high levels of activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala, indicating anxiety.
This is nonsense. More to the point, it's such obvious nonsense that the piece should never have made it to print, which would have saved the NYT the embarrassment of this scathing response and an enthusiastic pile-on from the blogosphere—Ben Goldacre's piece was where I picked up the story, and Language Log has a guest post from the astonishingly distinguished Martha Farah thoroughly eviscerating the original.
Neuroscience is fascinating, but it's also particularly prone to abuse and pseudoscience. Merely showing pictures of the brain to people has been shown to make them more prone to accept flawed explanations...in other words "brain scans indicate" is much more persuading than "researchers think". Even though that's basically the same thing. The research behind this is summarised in a Language Log post, or you can read the journal article[PDF] in press.
All of which should make us very sceptical whenever someone claims to have done anything useful with "neuromarketing". Interestingly, the best blog I know of that claims to deal with neuromarketing has precious little brain imaging, but rather a lot of well-designed traditional experiments. We're not going to be stopping people in the street and asking them to stick their heads in a fMRI scanner any time soon.
Which, on balance, is probably a good thing.