There is a fast-growing industry that’s based on the premise that targeted games and exercises can rewire the brain to boost memory, sharpen thinking or decrease the challenges associated with anxiety, autism, ADHD and other disorders, NBC News reports. Brick-and-mortar training centers like Brain Balance Achievement Centers and LearningRx are just one piece of a $2 billion global brain technology market that is increasingly going around the medical industry and marketing directly to consumers.
But the premise behind the programs has faced significant criticism from doctors and scientists who warn that some are making dubious claims. These personalized programs can cost $12,000 or more for six months of training, three days a week. Families have gone into debt or turned to crowdfunding sites to pay for them.
“They’re selling hope,” said Eric Rossen, the director of professional development and standards for the National Association of School Psychologists. “These organizations are not necessarily predatory, but they are definitely there and almost chasing the parents who are desperate, who are overwhelmed and who feel that they have no recourse.”
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As the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and autism surges in the U.S., according to federal data, and as parents become exasperated with treatments that don’t work or involve medications that carry the risk of side effects, neurotechnology industry analysts predict the demand for programs like these will only grow.