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Bloomberg story provides clear-eyed view of trendy neurofeedback brain-training clinics

Rating

5 Star

Categories

Neurofeedback Could Fight Depression–or Just Empty Your Wallet

Our Review Summary

This story discusses the state of evidence for neurofeedback for treating depression, ADD, anxiety, and a number of other issues. Readers are introduced to the topic through the experience of the writer, who went for a $250 diagnostic session at the office of a company called Neurocore. Expert sources and a review of the scientific literature ground the story and help balance the anecdotes.

 

Why This Matters

As the title of the story indicates, neurofeedback is an expensive treatment option. People dealing with a range of conditions that have not been amenable to other treatments might be tempted to try neurofeedback despite the cost, impressed by the scientific lingo and the seemingly sound logic used to explain its effects. It is important that the public, some of whom may be desperate for some sort of hope of improvement of a chronic condition, be given a clear-eyed view of how effective the procedure is likely to be.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story states the cost of a session of neurofeedback at Neurocore. The story would have been stronger if it had clarified whether insurance companies cover this treatment.

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

Satisfactory

There’s no quantification of benefits here, but we feel that was the right call. The story makes it clear that any studies showing benefits are of low quality and would likely overstate the benefits.

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

Satisfactory

The heading of the article highlights the only significant harm that has been associated with the treatment–potential emaciation of clients’ bank accounts.

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

Satisfactory

The poor quality of research on neurofeedback is frankly described in this piece. The story doesn’t mention it, but this state of affairs hasn’t changed much since the 1980s or 1990s when neurofeedback first caught the public’s imagination. A meta-analysis published in June 2016 concluded that 13 randomized clinical trials located fail to support neurofeedback as a treatment of ADD.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story doesn’t engage in disease mongering.

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

Satisfactory

Conflicts of interest in the main study addressed are acknowledged. The story itself contains a range of sources.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Where this article falls short is in its comparison to alternatives. How do those options compare to neurofeedback, in terms of evidence that they work?

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

Satisfactory

The story states that neurofeedback businesses are growing rapidly. Readers get the sense that offices are not that difficult to locate, although we are not told in so many words.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The implied novelty is that this is a fast-growing business, in spite of the lack of evidence. A little of the decades-long history of the sort of approach would help readers better put article claims into context, though.

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

Satisfactory

Outside experts are interviewed and quoted.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Sandy Thigpen

May 30, 2017 at 6:25 pm

I read the article and greatly appreciate your review. I have personally been treated using neurofeedback with great success. I’m hopeful future studies will provide the proper test structure, including acceptable control groups, to accurately reflect the efficacy of this type of therapy. The use of control groups are basic components of any published study. It’s disappointing to read the testing that was done is inconclusive due to a lack of acceptable and standard testing elements.

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