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Sit back and relax to brain wave music


2 Star

Sit back and relax to brain wave music

Our Review Summary

The story describes a procedure to turn brain waves into music, which reportedly can help various medical conditions, although the evidence for this is lacking.  Importantly, there seems to be little, if any, evidence that this treatment is helpful for the conditions mentioned, e.g. depression, anxiety, pain syndromes.  Yet the story treats the "treatment" as if it has a proven benefit.  It's also unclear what the benefit might be or for how long.  Unfortunately, NBC's physician-reporter, who was apparently supposed to objectively comment on this "therapy," only gushes at what the treatment might do, despite a lack of compelling evidence that it does anything.  While this provides for good TV banter, it doesn't provide an objective source for the story.  Despite all the airtime given this, NBC relied on only one source –  "a neuropsychiatrist (who) brought brain music therapy to the U.S. from Moscow, and claims it cures all kinds of ills." The story also doesn't describe any harms from this procedure, its availability, or what other treatment options–proven treatment options–might exist for any of the conditions discussed.  It seems to represent this procedure as a "treatment" for all psychiatric illness, fatigue, or stress, which is a disservice to the public. 

In an era in which many are pushing for evidence-based medical reporting, this story goes in the opposite direction. 


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story mentions the cost of a session ($500) and tells viewers that more than one session may be needed.  The story does mention this is not covered by insurance. It does not explain how many sessions might be needed to get an effect. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story states that treatment worked in 80-85% of people who tried it, but it's not clear what "worked" really means, what the response was in the control group, or the duration of the response.  

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any potential harms of turning brain waves into music. If the research has shown no harms, the story should have said that. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story tells viewers that the evidence is based on one double-blind study, but it doesn't say whether that study was randomized, or provide response rates for the control arm or even provide any other details to evaluate the strength of the study for which all claims are based.  Based on only one study with such seemingly high effect rates, the strength of the evidence seems rather weak. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

It's not clear what the disease in this story would be.  Is it depression, anxiety, pain syndromes?  This is presented as a potential cure for all psychiatric illness and for fatigue or common stress.  A description of one man's experience with depression and the fact that he could get off his paxil and xanax (which is not used for depression) and "be himself" is misleading and potentially biasing.  The story implies taking medications for depression is a weakness, which only serves to further stigmatize such a debilitating and serious condition. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story discusses little to no scientific evidence that this works, yet NBC's reporter-physician supports the treatment because she "thinks" it should work (vs. commenting on what the evidence actually tells us).  Despite all the airtime given this, NBC relied on only one source –  "a neuropsychiatrist (who) brought brain music therapy to the U.S. from Moscow, and claims it cures all kinds of ills."

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Medications are mentioned as an alternative for treatment of depression (and medications are mentioned for treatment of anxiety, although they are incorrectly ascribed to the treatment of one man's depression).  However, medications are mentioned only in a negative way without mentioning their benefits.  Other effective treatment options for depression, such as counseling, are not mentioned, nor are other treatment options for the other conditions this experimental approach is purported to help. 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

It is not clear whether this is available to the public. The story states it is somewhat experimental, so viewers are left wondering if this is only available in research settings.  There is no information on the stage of research or where to seek "treatment."

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story states the "treatment" has been used by 10,000 people, but doesn't explicitly state when this first started being used or how new this is.  However, music therapy in general remains fairly novel and most people understand taking someone's EEG and reformulating it into music sounds very new. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can't be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release, although it did rely on only one source – "a neuropsychiatrist (who) brought brain music therapy to the U.S. from Moscow, and claims it cures all kinds of ills."

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory


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