Brain-boosting startups sell heftily priced headgear despite suspect science

The vast majority of neurotech startups that sell expensive headgear lack science to back up their claims.


June 21, 2019

Ask your grandpa: Back in the day, people had to make their own tinfoil hats to protect their brainwaves.

But today, things are different: 41 products now sell futuristic headgear claiming to do everything from curbing appetite to improving memory to treating addiction, Axios reports.

But one fact remains the same: These flashy new silicon headcases are backed up by as little science as their aluminum ancestors.

Tinfoil hats, but more expensive

One device, the Modius, sells for $499 and claims to help people lose weight by “gently stimulating” the brain to curb appetite.

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The Modius and other pieces of brain-gear — most of which range in price from $100 to $200 — stake their medical claims mostly on internal research and customer testimonials, not peer-reviewed research.

Of the 41 brain-gear products, only 33 supplied any research at all, and only 8 referred to peer-reviewed, non-internal research.

But these device may not only be ineffective…

They may also be downright damaging. 

Transcranial direct current stimulation — one of the types of brain-buzzing commonly used in headsets — can also cause skin burns and headaches.

But since customers are willing to pay for these products, these startups are raising headache-inducing amounts of cash ($100m, in some cases) to sell their brain-boosters before regulators catch up.

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