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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Neurobabble update

I've had my sport here before with poseurs claiming to traffick beneficently in applied commercial "neuroscience." Recall these tweets.

Ahhh.... Jim Kwik, Mr. "I Build Better Brains." Then there's the jovial self-proclaimed neuro-musicology "scientist" Will Henshall.

Now comes "Neurocore Brain Centers" "Boost Your Brain Power in 2017."

Lordy. I've reached out to them repeatedly to no avail, asking for independent documentation of the underlying neuroscience upon which their "therapy" is ostensibly based. They're not gonna respond to some piss-ant ankle-biter like me. The temerity!
Their basic summary pitch:
The Neurocore Brain Performance Center Experience
At our Brain Performance Centers, we look past labels and assumptions to uncover the root cause of your symptoms. Based on your unique brain map, we create a personalized program to help you train your brain to its optimal performance. It’s safe and drug-free.

Brain Diagnostics
Rather than acting solely on observed behaviors, Neurocore takes a scientific approach to understand what’s wrong. Your comprehensive assessment includes brainwave analysis using qEEG technology, heart rate and breathing analysis and other diagnostic tests to paint a clear picture of what’s going on in your brain.

Customized Program
Once your brain shows us what is causing the problem, your unique brain map becomes our guide to designing a personalized treatment program. Through positive reinforcement and repetition, neurofeedback sessions train your brain to function better, more efficiently – so you feel better.

Lasting Results
Over time, your symptoms recede and in many cases disappear. This is unlike medication, which simply masks your symptoms until it wears off and it's time for the next dose. At Neurocore, we fix the problem, not just cover it up. Our drug-free solution lasts beyond each treatment session and can provide benefits to your brain and life for years to come.
Watch their "overview" video clip here.

That's a broad list of clinical conditions.

Turns out that Neurocore's principal investor is the controversial newly-confirmed Trump Administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
DeVos-Backed Company Questioned on ADHD, Autism
Neurocore touts its autism, ADHD treatment

By Benjamin Herold •February 7, 2017
President Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education is a major backer of a company claiming its neurofeedback technology can "fix" problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has "proven and long-lasting" positive effects on children with autism.

Current scientific evidence does not support such claims, according to the clinical guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and three leading researchers Education Week consulted.

"It's misleading the public to say neurofeedback is effective in treating kids with ADHD and autism," said Nadine Gaab, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "It's still an experimental treatment that needs more rigorous research."

Launched in 2006, Neurocore is based in Grand Rapids, Mich. That's also the hometown of billionaire school choice advocate Betsy DeVos, Trump's pick to become U.S. secretary of education.

DeVos sat on Neurocore's board from 2009 until November, when she resigned the position to avoid potential conflicts of interest should she be confirmed. As part of her divestiture plan, which has been approved by the federal Office of Government Ethics, DeVos and her husband, Richard DeVos, Jr. , will maintain an indirect financial interest in the company. On her disclosure forms, DeVos valued that stake at between $5 million and $25 million.
...A spokesman for the DeVos family declined to respond to Education Week's inquiries about the investment in Neurocore. The Trump administration did not respond to Education Week's request for comment.

Neurocore CEO Mark Murrison defended his company's work and marketing. He pointed to an emerging body of research in which neurofeedback in general has shown promise, as well as information Neurocore collects from its clients.

"What we provide to our clients truly makes a difference, and our internal outcomes data and testimonials bear that out," Murrison said in an interview...
"Internal outcomes data and testimonials?"

...Murrison, Neurocore's CEO, acknowledged that there have to date not been any such high-quality studies conducted about Neurocore specifically. The first peer-reviewed study of the company's outcomes, for clients with anxiety and depression, "should be going to press in the next few months," he said. Another peer-reviewed study of Neurocore's impact on clients with ADHD is in the works, according to Murrison...
Yeah, I'll hold my breath.

The internet wags have wasted little time.
"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Unveils Common NeuroCore Standards"
LOL. "Neurobabble." How about "NeuroPractic?" "NeuroQuackery?" (my irascible reactions)

I hope the good folks at Science Based Medicine will give this a go. Other media outlets are starting to chime in. See, e.g., "Betsy DeVos-Backed Doctor Says TV Can Remedy Attention Deficit Disorder."  

NY Times is also on it. "Betsy DeVos Invests in a Therapy Under Scrutiny."
“Is it time for a mind makeover?” the company asks in its advertising. “All it takes is science.”

But a review of Neurocore’s claims and interviews with medical experts suggest its conclusions are unproven and its methods questionable.

Neurocore has not published its results in peer-reviewed medical literature. Its techniques — including mapping brain waves to diagnose problems and using neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, to treat them — are not considered standards of care for the majority of the disorders it treats, including autism. Social workers, not doctors, perform assessments, and low-paid technicians with little training apply the methods to patients, including children with complex problems...

Neurocore lists 40 "scientific papers" on their "learn more" page. Critics have countered that these window-dressing citations go to various aspects of neuroscience in general, but none go to the company's internal controlled trial studies.

Because, by the CEO's admission above, there aren't any to date. At this point, all we have is "neurobabble." Whether we get to "neuroquackery" remains to be seen.


Join the March for Science. See my prior post "Update on the March for Science"
and the antecedent "I am not a scientist."

Just in: Feb 9th War on Science update:
The Backpedaler-in-Chief
The Trump administration has retracted its most alarming anti-science moves. Is that heartening or a sign of more disturbing policies to come?

On science and "transparency." The Theranos VC lesson.

In this regard, see "Bill Maris: Here's why Google Ventures didn't invest in Theranos."


One of three new ones I have going at the moment, actually.

Gloriously written. Stay tuned. The other two are here and here.


About a month ago our precious 15 yr old rescue dog Jaco was diagnosed as "terminal" with a number of tumors in his liver. Absent "exploratory surgery" (which the vet said would be a coin-flip in any event), he's expected to die soon, or have to be put down should he get really bad.

It's been day-to-day, sometimes hour-by-hour ever since. Several times I though he was dying or already gone. Once I determine he's in significant pain, I will have him euthanized, but we're not there yet -- apparently. There's no good way to tell.

Trying to give him "A Good Death," but, well, you know...

Also, two days ago, my dear friend Kurt Kolstad finally succumbed, losing his 11-year struggle against mantle cell lymphoma. We are all distraught. As I posted on my Facebook page:
My dear friend of 43 years, Kurt Kolstad, has finally succumbed after an excruciating 11 year battle with mantle cell lymphoma. I am really heartbroken today. Kurt was one of the best drummers in the world. Period. He could've played for Sting. He also played guitar, and keyboard, and wrote great songs. Beyond all that, he was a wonderful human being. I was blessed to share a stage with him up in the Seattle area many years ago. While I am glad his suffering is finally over, I will miss him sorely.
He began his illness with pre-ACA health insurance,written through his wife's employer. He maxed out the policy and they lost coverage. Then they lost their home to foreclosure. THEN, not quite four years ago kurt's wife Cyndy died. I got there as soon as I could. I posted a YouTube clip:
My dear friend Kurt, who has been fighting off Mantle Cell Lymphoma for 8 years, lost his wife Cyndy 48 hours ago. I'm over at his place in Tacoma. I started singing "Lean on me," which spurred him. "Let me play for ya this tune I wrote 4 years ago. It's my "Lean on me'. It's on a CD out in the car."

This is off my iPhone. BobbyG's Left Hand Unsteady Cam Productions.

Self-explanatory. This glorious musician-writer (with whom I shared a stage 39 years ago) and his family have been reduced to crushing penury by nearly a decade of acute, life-threatening illness. Now with personal tragedy piled atop it.
Very sad time here of late.

More to come...

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