Although electroencephalographic (EEG) neurofeedback is a technique that has been in existence for many decades, it has remained controversial, largely due to questions about efficacy. Yet neurofeedback is being widely offered to the public, often at great expense. To date, however, there has not been empirical data on which providers are utilizing neurofeedback, what they are offering it for, and how they are advertising the technique. The present study aimed to fill that gap by systematically analyzing the websites of neurofeedback practitioners in the USA. To that end, we obtained data from four directories of neurofeedback providers, extracting practitioner names, geographical locations, professional training, and website URLs. Only websites offering neurofeedback services (N = 371) were included in the next step, wherein two coders independently coded the websites based on a codebook developed from preliminary analyses. We found that nearly all websites (97.0%) contained claims about at least one clinical indication, most commonly anxiety, ADHD/ADD, and depression; however, only 36.0% of providers had either a medical degree (MD) or a doctoral-level degree in psychology. The majority of websites advertised neurofeedback for cognitive (90.0%) or performance (67.9%) enhancement, and roughly three-quarters utilized language related to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In sum, there is a considerable divergence between the scientific literature on neurofeedback and the marketing of neurofeedback services to the general public, raising concerns regarding the misrepresentation of services and misleading advertising claims.
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Thanks to Ashutosh Mishra for assistance with extracting information from provider directories; and thanks to Robert Thibault and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback on the manuscript.
This project was supported by the Office of the Director, NIH, under Award Number DP5OD026420.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Wexler, A., Nagappan, A., Kopyto, D. et al. Neuroenhancement for Sale: Assessing the Website Claims of Neurofeedback Providers in the USA. J Cogn Enhanc 4, 379–388 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-020-00170-8
- Cognitive enhancement
- Neuroscience and society