'Brain tuner' prompts warning

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 September, 1998, 12:00am

MEDICAL and education specialists have warned buyers to be wary of a 'study machine' which claims to tune its users' brainwaves for studying or relaxing.

The MC2 Study machine looks like a personal stereo, but in addition to earplugs it has wires attached to dark glasses with flashing red lights inside the lenses.

Users choose the level of brain activity they want and then select a programme.

While the $2,800 MC2 Study plays drumbeats through the earplugs and flashes lights at the eyes, users can overlay the effect with a soundtrack of nature sounds.

The company marketing the machine claims it improves concentration and enables people to achieve better test scores and exam results - but users are warned it can induce epileptic fits.

Neurologist Dr Yu Chung-ping said there appeared to be no scientific basis to the brain-training claims.

'In medical literature, there's no such thing,' Dr Yu said.

'We've never come across any proof that these things work for the brain.' If the MC2 Study could tune brains to achieve better concentration, its results would have been published in reputable science or medical journals, Dr Yu said. 'I would be very sceptical,' he added. 'Show me the proof.' Flashing lights, such as those attached to the MC2 Study glasses, are known to trigger epileptic fits in some people.

Education Department senior specialist educational psychologist Chow Kam-fong urged students to consult their parents before buying the machine.

Being relaxed made it easier to focus on learning - but students could achieve this by listening to music, practising tai chi or simply breathing deeply, she said.

'I'm not sure whether the machine can really help people be calm and relaxed,' Ms Chow said.

'I don't think they need to rely on a machine.

'It may not have a direct result on your test scores. It may help you relax, but I think they're trying to link it [with exams] not very logically.' Ircsi Krouse, the director of the firm marketing the machine, TPI, said she was an educational psychologist and was focusing sales on students.

'We claim that if you use it properly and regularly, [you can achieve] whatever the goal you have - be it to get a good night's sleep or to concentrate,' Ms Krouse said.

'We've done an incredible amount of research about this.' Research details were omitted from promotional material to 'make things simple'.

'Does an ordinary customer want all this [information]? I don't think so,' Ms Krouse said.