Carrot Neurotechnology Inc., which marketed an app dubbed UltimEyes as a tool to improve vision, recently agreed to pay $150,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its claims were not backed by sound science. But now the app’s developer, who is on the hook for half of the payment, is rallying like-minded scientists to try to persuade the FTC to change its mind.
Neuroscientist Aaron Seitz objected to the FTC’s determination that the company could only represent that Ultimeyes improves vision if such claims are supported by reliable scientific evidence – which must consist of randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies.
Seitz, in an open letter to the FTC, argued that the commission has dismissed “solid science and experts in the field,” and is preventing the general public from benefiting from a peer-reviewed technique shown to carry minimal risk. He urged viewers to “spread the word” and provide feedback on the FTC’s public comment page.
Twenty people have so far submitted a comment in support of Seitz, including Dr. Michael Merzenich, a renowned neuroscientist who has been in the field for more than 50 years. Merzenich wrote that “Dr. Seitz's efforts arise from a literal mountain of evidence from the relatively straightforward neuroscience of perceptual learning and brain plasticity.” Other purported vision experts backing Seitz expressed similar views and argued that the standard of scientific evidence required in the case was “excessive,” “unwarranted” and “unfeasible.”
According to the UltimEyes website, the app is a “simple-to-use interactive game scientifically shown to improve vision.” It doesn’t affect the functions of the physical eye, Seitz claims, but instead “trains the brain” to better interpret visual data.
The FTC is collecting public comments on the proposed consent agreement until Oct. 19. It’s doubtful Seitz will have much luck persuading the agency to change its mind, but we’ll watch what goes on and let you know if his strategy works.
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