The Washington Post has published a detailed report on Neurocore, a “brain performance” company owned by the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos resigned her Neurocore board seat when she joined the Trump Cabinet, but she and her husband maintain a financial stake between $5 million and $25 million, according to a disclosure statement filed with the Office of Government Ethics. The Neurocore program is claimed to improve brain performance through sessions in which the patient watches television while hooked up to an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. The report’s author underwent a $250 program evaluation, examined the relevant experimental evidence, interviewed several experts, and concluded:
I’ll admit that before I stepped into Neurocore, I had little intention of signing up for the company’s treatment. I had read too many articles skeptical of brain training to think that I should pay for its services. But it took talking to experts and a visit to Florida to discover that the firm was also hurtful — a Trump University for people with cognitive struggles. By wrapping weak science in sleek packaging, by promising something that it cannot fully deliver, Neurocore offers false hope to people who need honest help. In this regard, what’s most remarkable is that DeVos, the nation’s foremost pedagogue, is behind it all, promoting a form of education that doesn’t actually seem to educate.
After having read this article and coming from a scientific background, I can firmly state that there is nothing to be derived from an EEG that allows for psychological assessment, and therefore, no chance that such “information” could be used for any type of management. I guess one might conclude that this is more “fake news,” this time emanating from the White House!! Does this come as a surprise to any rational person?
The nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education has led several major press outlets to investigate Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, a clinic chain in which she and her husband are the principal investors. Neurocore’s Web site states that its primary approach—which it calls neurofeedback, EEG biofeedback, and/or quantitative EEG (qEEG)—is effective against attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, depression, memory disorders, migraines, sleep disorders, and stress. The main treatment consists of hooking up patients to a device that records their brain wave patterns, showing movies to to them, and interrupting them when they become distracted. Neurocore asserts that this process “retrains” brains. In a video interview, Neurocore’s CEO asserted—without providing evidence—that (a) medication can be helpful but is only a short-term fix that masks symptoms, (b) cognitive behavioral therapy (AKA psychotherapy) can help in some cases but just gives compensating behaviors, and (c) unlike these, Neurocore’s neurofeedback deals with the “root causes” of these disorders. In interviews, former employees expressed skepticism. Child psychiatrists and psychologists with expertise in autism and ADHD debunked Neurocore’s claims, and questioned its advertising and methods (New York Times, Jan 30, 2017). Another press report noted that Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services recently denied a claim for Neurocore’s services for treating migraine. DeVos, who is a billionaire, is also the daughter of one of Amway’s founders. None of these “brain claims” noted above possess any biologic validity, nor have they appeared in any acceptable scientific peer review publications—the usual destination for valid scientific advances.
Betsy DeVos is not just unqualified, she’s dangerous! Does anyone in his/her right mind believe such a person should occupy a cabinet position?