BBB National Programs Archive
NARB Affirms NAD Decision Following Panel’s Review of Advertising Claims Made for Neurocore Brain Performance Centers
New York, NY – June 20, 2018 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has affirmed an earlier decision that found Neurocore LLC, operator of Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, could not support quantified “outcome” claims based on internal pre- and post-treatment assessments of its clients. While Neurocore represented that it had discontinued the specific claims challenged earlier by the National Advertising Division (NAD), the panel noted its concern at the company’s assertion that it would continue to make similar “outcome” claims based on the same evidence.
NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Neurocore promotes neurofeedback, biofeedback and other interventions as designed to help clients with issues including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, memory and sleep problems and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The company’s advertising claims were initially challenged by NAD, which concluded that Neurocore’s evidence was insufficiently reliable to substantiate its strong health-related advertising claims, including “outcome” claims such as:
“Our Anxiety Outcomes*
90% report fewer or less frequent Anxiety symptoms
78% achieve non-clinical status
* Of those presenting with a ‘Clinical’ status (T-score ≥ 70) on the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA) DSM-Oriented Anxiety Problems Scale.
NAD challenged similar claims made for ADHD and depression, based on Neurocore’s internal data.
Neurocore appealed NAD’s decision to the NARB.
The panel noted in its decision that there was evidence in the record that supported the potential efficacy of neurofeedback and biofeedback in treating a variety of disorders. However, the panel also noted that scientific studies on these treatments have shown inconsistent results and questions have been raised as to the sufficiency of studies that have been conducted. The panel noted that testing protocols used in studies varied widely, which made it difficult to determine the degree of scientific support for the efficacy of specific interventions offered by Neurocore.
The panel further noted that it was “troubled by Neurocore’s representation that it will continue to advertise” internal client assessment results that Neurocore claimed showed “the percentage of Neurocore clients who experienced a ‘clinically important’ reduction of symptoms as well as the percentage of clients who ‘no longer met symptomatic thresholds’ for ADHD/anxiety/depression.”
Neurocore clients are assessed using the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA), a collection of behavioral questionnaires used before and after treatment to assess an individual’s competencies, strengths, adaptive functioning, and behavioral, emotional and social problems.
The results of the ASEBA are expressed as a “T Score” for individual disorders – ADHD, anxiety or depression, for example – that indicates whether the individual is normal, borderline, or “clinical” with respect to that disorder.
The panel determined that in the context of Neurocore’s advertising, a claim that clients experience a “clinically important” reduction of symptoms reasonably conveys a message that the reduction was clinically determined and a claim that clients no longer meet symptomatic thresholds for a disorder reasonably conveys a message that it has been clinically determined the clients have been cured of the disorder.
The panel found that the record did not support a finding that ASEBA scores alone were determinative of whether a person is suffering from a psychological disorder or had experienced a significant reduction in symptoms. Overall, the panel found that pre- and post-treatment ASEBA scores did not reasonably support, and were not a good fit for, Neurocore’s quantified improvement claims
The panel recommended that Neurocore discontinue the challenged quantified outcome claims. The panel noted that its decision does not preclude Neurocore from discussing on its website and in promotional materials – in a truthful and non-misleading manner – pre- and post-assessment ASEBA results in a context that (a) does not make headline claims based on ASEBA T score changes and (b) does not state or imply that changes in ASEBA T scores demonstrate that clients experienced a significant reduction in symptoms or were cured.
Neurocore also represented to the panel that it discontinued the claim “25% reduction in reported symptoms on the autism evaluation checklists,” which the company said was a reference to a published article. The panel agreed that discontinuance of the claim is appropriate.
The panel found that the non-quantified claims challenged by NAD – including claims that the Neurocore program enabled consumers to control anxiety and fight depression without medication – conveyed strong messages that were not reasonably supported by the record. The panel recommended that these claims be discontinued, and acknowledged Neurocore’s representation that it had already done so.
The panel also recommended that Neurocore discontinue testimonials, including those on YouTube, that claim Neurocore clients have reduced or eliminated the need for medication for ADHD, anxiety, depression, memory problems, migraines or sleep disorders.
Finally, the panel recommended that Neurocore clearly and conspicuously disclose, in any advertising stating or implying that the Neurocore program is drug free, that consumers who take prescription medication for any condition for which Neurocore offers treatment should consult with their doctor before discontinuing use of such medications.
Neurocore, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will comply with the NARB panel’s recommendations. Neurocore respects and values the self-regulatory process and appreciates the NARB’s evaluation of Neurocore’s advertising. Neurocore takes pride in being able to offer a viable, non-chemical treatment program for mental and behavioral conditions that impact millions of consumers. But Neurocore also takes pride in disseminating truthful and accurate information to consumers. As such, Neurocore is always looking for opportunities to more clearly communicate the benefits of its program to consumers and welcomes the NARB panel’s recommendations.”