The News Today
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10.14.19
Closer Look

Experts: Brain-Stimulating Headsets Are Probably Snake Oil

May 28th 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Enhanced Humans
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Bold Claims

If startups selling alleged brain-enhancing wearables are to be believed, their brain-zapping headsets will help you rapidly learn new skills, stave off neurological disease, and become an elite athlete.

But because that’s not the case, scientists and ethicists are urging the companies to dial back their bold claims, according to Stat News — because the science, they say, simply doesn’t hold up.

Track Record

A team of neuroscientists and neuroethicists from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver looked into 41 different companies selling brain-boosting wearables directly to consumers.

The team’s findings, published last week in the journal Neuron, don’t paint the companies in a good light — only eight of them provided any evidence that their devices actually work. Another 29 merely provided information on general scientific concepts.

Savvy Marketing

“Consumers and the public deserve to have messages be as clear as possible when it comes to their brains and brain data,” UBC neurologist and neuroethicist Judy Illes told Stat.

Many of the companies identified in the investigation claim that their devices can cure medical problems and mental illnesses with trans-cranial direct stimulation, a kind of brain-zapping technology that has shown promise but only in very precise laboratory settings.

“They really are reaching to a population of people that may be vulnerable, such as people [who have] depression, anxiety, or attention disorders,” Illes told Stat.

READ MORE: ‘A cavalier approach’: Experts urge the companies behind brain wearables to rein in their claims [Stat News]

More on brain stimulation: Shocking a Person’s Brain Could Make Them Less Violent, Study Shows