CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) complained that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos did not give up her family holdings in a “brain enhancement” company called Neurocore. 

Neurocore operates brain performance centers that offer treatment for children and adults with anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The company uses unproven “brain training” techniques to address these conditions without the use of medication.   

At the time she was appointed, Secretary DeVos and her spouse valued their investment in Neurocore as between $5,000,001 and $25,000,000. Since then, the DeVoses have increased their investment in the company by up to $10.5 million, and financial disclosure documents filed this month suggest that her ties to the company are deepening.

Secretary DeVos’ stake in Neurocore presents potential conflicts of interest that stem largely from the possibility that the company could begin to partner with schools, as other similar companies have, and then benefit from programs that she can influence.

In this context, the types of evidence that are sufficient for companies to show effectiveness is an important question, and Neurocore’s claims about its own effectiveness have been disputed. The company has been been called out by the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) for misleading claims about its success in helping its clients address ADHD and autism without medication. Education Week also questioned the scientific evidence behind Neurocore’s claims, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical guidelines and consulting three leading experts. If the Department of Education were to accept state accountability plans that relied on interventions for children with conditions such as ADHD and autism that lacked a sufficient scientific basis, it could possibly open the door for Neurocore and companies like it to work with schools in the future.

A number of critics have questioned Neurocore’s claims about curing ADHD and autism with biofeedback.

DeVos increased her stake in the company since becoming Secretary.