The maker of a new pair of shades claims he can help you see the world through rose-colored glasses ... but at least one expert sees a more complicated picture.
NeuView Sunglasses, said to adjust mood and anxiety by using light to stimulate one hemisphere of the brain more than the other, are being touted as the best replacement for prescription drugs for controlling tempers, alleviating depression, getting in touch with one's emotions and becoming more rational in times of stress.
“I had a fellow who had been in a business deal once who felt abused by one of his business partners, and he couldn't let it go,” said NeuView creator Robert Buck, a psychotherapist in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. “He used the glasses and within three minutes he said, 'I'm thinking about other things now.'"
The glasses work like this: Someone suffering from a surplus of emotions flips up the flap on the right side of the sunglasses to engage the left, or more rational, part of the brain. Someone who needs to get in touch with their emotions or who needs to tap into the "big-picture" thinking of the right brain flips up the flap on the left side of the sunglasses, stimulating the right brain.
But not everyone sees the shades in such a positive light.
“The theory is that if you could manipulate whether you're activating more the left or right hemisphere, the brain may be able to adjust your mood or anxiety accordingly, and there's some support for the theory, but it's not overwhelmingly strong,” said Gerard Bruder, professor of clinical psychology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“And then there's the fact that it's a product being marketed when they haven't done much research on it — it makes one question whether it's being done just to make a few bucks. It sounds a little too good to be true ... there might be a placebo effect involved,” Bruder added.
The glasses are not exactly fashion-forward — they look like something the Terminator might have sent forward in time from 1984. They're blocky, mirrored wraparounds, with flip-up “wings” like the doors of the “Back to the Future” DeLorean.
Nevertheless, since he first started marketing the glasses to the public in May, Buck's seen the orders for the $67.50 shades flooding in from 10 different countries.
“We've been swamped,” he said.
Among the believers is one of Buck's former patients, who said the glasses helped her get over the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and as a result I suffered from severe anxiety and depression,” Jill Seldin, a 60-year-old retiree living in Boyton Beach, Fla., said.
“When Bob suggested I try the glasses, I really didn't take it very seriously. However, to my surprise, the glasses had an almost immediate calming effect on me. I still use them on an as-needed basis for my anxiety. I have two pairs, so I periodically loan them to friends."
FOXNews.com's own unscientific test run of the glasses was more ambivalent.
One 33-year-old male test subject reported “a soothing effect.” Two 30-year-old female subjects said the glasses made them feel no different, and one refused to wear them again for further testing. A 34-year-old male's logbook was not much different:
0:00 Subject puts on sunglasses in state of mild anxiety, raises right flap.
0:01 Subject reports difficulty seeing, no real emotional change.
0:05 Subject reports no real emotional change.
0:07 Subject reports no real emotional change, stubbed toe.
0:10 Subject reports no real emotional change.
0:12 Subject reports highly elevated feelings of ridiculousness.
Bruder added that one is always a little suspicious when people say something helps both anxiety and depression.
“From a theoretical perspective I would question whether just lifting one flap and letting a little more light in through one side is really enough to shift the balance between hemispheres. It seems to me that would be a relatively subtle effect," he said.
But users swear by their shades. Kenoza Lake, N.Y., programmer Alan Rajlevsky has been using the glasses for a year and a half to help him conquer his sometimes crippling anxiety.
“They had had quite a positive effect in reducing those spiraling feelings,” he said. “In a number of instances, I was able to see results within a few minutes, despite my inherent skepticism about them. I must say that they have been an emotional lifesaver for me particularly in extreme cases of anxiety."
And Los Angeles psychotherapist Sid Kalcheim says about two out of every three of his patients who wear the glasses see an improvement in their state of mind.
“It's the closest thing to magic ... but it's neurologically based,” he said. “I've had some attorneys, you wouldn't think it, but they're in their right brain when they lift up their left side and the tears just start flowing.”