Neurofeedback as treatment for depression: some companies make unsupported claims

Neurofeedback as treatment for depression: some companies make unsupported claims

“Neurofeedback Could Fight Depression-or Just Empty Your Wallet” was posted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek on 5-18-17. This article discusses the emerging field of “neurofeedback,” which is part of the huge brain-training market. The article discusses one company in particular, Neurocore LLC, based in Florida and owned in part by US Education Sec. Betsy DeVos. This company claims to be able, using advanced EEG technology, to be able to help people “optimize their brains” and to improve cognitive performance, diagnose ADHD, and even to provide “a lasting solution” for depression.

All this reportedly can be accomplished with a series of 40 minute brain training treatments, with an initial package of 30 available for purchase for $2200, or about $73 per treatment. The claims, however, are based on research with serious problems. This treatment is based on research that finds, at a basic level, that different brain patterns, such as arousal and attentiveness, can be accurately identified by EEG technology. The problem is that they base “treatments” on these findings, and there is an absence of research that supports claims of lasting benefits from using this technology to treat conditions, as claimed by most neurofeedback companies.

The main study cited by Neurocore LLC did not utilize a control group, and was conducted by researchers with ties to the company. One skeptic expert is quoted, “You would get laughed out of the ballpark if you try to propose a medical treatment with evidence like this.” Some people have experienced this training and claim remarkable results, but a lack of controlled studies of this “treatment” does not support the claims of neurofeedback advocate, and cannot rule out the placebo effect for the claims of benefits made by customers.

The full article is available online.

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