Wearable neurotech companies need to rein in claims, ethics experts say

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Companies marketing wearable neurotechnology devices rarely undergo adequate research and testing, and fail to release appropriate safety warnings with their devices, according to a report published in Neuron this month.

A team of ethics researchers from Neuroethics Canada at the University of British Columbia studied 41 direct-to-consumer wearable neurodevices and their respective marketing materials. They found that, while the devices are said to relieve anxiety, improve sleep quality, assist with neurofeedback and increase concentration, the majority of these and other claims are not supported by relevant, peer-reviewed research.

Most of the devices' claims were linked only to research and resources concerning general scientific concepts, rather than studies detailing the actual effects of the specific devices. Additionally, while only a few companies explicitly stated that their devices are safe to use, more than half of those examined neglected to make associated risks and warnings clear to consumers before purchase.

"Scientific evidence is essential to legitimize claims about utility, safety and efficacy and for informed choice and public trust," the researchers wrote. "Continued vigilance to the claims landscape for brain technologies is especially important as this market captures the imagination of a neuro-obsessed world."

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