“Balancing act” (Neuro Connect clips)

BALANCE

Neuro Connect clips are new on the alternative medicine scene are, but the posturing and preposterousness that accompanying them have been seen many times before.

Owners of the company that sells them purport that their product can do all manner of wonders, particularly for one’s balance and athleticism. The product was pitched to credulous investors on Dragons’ Den, which is the Great White North’s version of Shark Tank. Doing the hawking was Ontario chiropractor Mark Metus and his business partner, Greg Phillips, both of whom raved about the clips’ ability to immediately improve balance, strength, muscle function, and joint flexibility.

In doing so, they employed classic pseudoscientific techniques, such as misrepresenting a genuine scientific phenomenon and falsely asserting that their merchandise can harness it. In this case, the principle is quantum entanglement, which Metus said his product creates.

This goes well beyond my area of expertise, so I will keep it basic. But quantum entanglement occurs when groups of particles interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others’ quantum state, regardless of distance from one another. Even quantum physicists are unsure why this occurs. The topic is confusing, complex, and science-sounding, so Metus and Phillips take advantage of this befuddlement and pitch their product with assertions that are unsupported by evidence or studies. Again, even among experts, quantum entanglement is little understood, so there’s no reason to believe that the phenomenon is being tapped into for health benefits by two men with no medical or scientific background or training.

According to the company’s website, the clips are infused with a “subtle energy pattern” which travels neurological pathways by means of quantum entanglement and this leads to better health. This description represents a mishmash of misused words, artificially constructed phrases, and unsubstantiated claims. Energy is merely measurable work capability, not the panacea it is presented to be in alt-med circles, where it is the most ubiquitous and abused word. Neurological is an anatomical term, but the clips’ merchants are failing to explain how such pathways would be impacted by their product via quantum entanglement. This use of science terms without explaining the science it is another red flag. Finally, the health claims are unsupported by double blind studies or other empirical evidence, to which Metus can only respond, “We just know that it works.”

Instead of the Scientific Method, he and Phillips prefer demonstrations that are easily manipulated. On the Canadian television program, Metus asked Dragon Michele Romanow to stand on one leg and reach up as if she were grasping for an object on a high shelf. He then forces her arm down, attaches the clip, and has her assume the position again.

This time, Metus seems unable to lower the arm and he remarks how much stronger Romanow is, to her amazement. The company’s website is full of such testimonials from customers who also credit the clips with improving their stability, pain management, and motor skills. Glowing reports like these in lieu of double blind studies are yet another pseudoscience giveaway.

The technique that fooled Romanow is frequently used in the alternative medicine field of applied kinesiology. It has also been a central selling point for similar products that purport to improve balance. The technique is less of a demonstration of the product and more of an example of how the range of human motion works.

You can try your own in-home study. Have someone push you with moderate effort from the front. Then turn 90 degrees left or right and have the person again shove you again with the same force. In the second iteration, you will now be much more likely to stay put. This is due to anatomy and physiology, not because a mysterious force or magic dust is at work.

In the hands of charlatans, the usual method is to twice push down on a subject’s arm, which has been raised or otherwise positioned for the “testing.” The first test is alleged to measure the subject’s baseline. The follow-up is meant to show how much stronger or centered the person feels with the product in hand (or around neck or over waist). The patient usually detects a difference, but this is not because a mystical energy has been accessed. Rather, it stems from the client’s positioning and the force exerted by the practitioner.

In a similar deceptive demonstration, the subjects clasp their hands together behind their back while the demonstrator, from about two feet away, pushes down and dislodges the person from their position. Then with the magic bracelet affixed, the demonstrator moves directly behind the person, who now cannot fall back because someone is standing directly behind them.

Another trick is to have the subject stand with their arms forming a T. The demonstrator then pushes on one of the arms around the elbow, outward toward the hand. Unless the subject is Mr. Olympia, the arm is going down. On the next demonstration, with the stupendous product now in place, the push is made again at the elbow, but in the other direction toward the subject’s sternum, and the pose holds.

Since Neuro Connect has yet to conduct double blind studies of its clip, the online news organization Marketplace filled the void. Teaming with science professors from the University of Toronto, the journalists performed tests on 10 volunteers. All were tested on standing balance and grip strength. Each volunteer participant did each test thrice – once with Neuro Connect clips, once was with placebo clips, and once without clips. On the first two of these, neither the subjects nor the evaluators knew which was which. The results showed no difference in strength or balance for any participant in any of the three iterations. Maybe their quantum wasn’t entangled enough.

 

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