Revolution or rip-off? Chiropractor charges thousands for technique to change “humanity”

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MILWAUKEE (WITI)- A Milwaukee chiropractor claims to have cracked the code into an untapped part of the human brain. He's developed a technique that he says will shift the course of humanity. All you need is a desire to believe. And a lot of money.

For about $2,000, you can have the technique performed on you. For another $14,000, you can learn how to master it yourself.

The "Higher Brain Living" program is being sold across the country as a lucrative business opportunity. Now, Milwaukee police and the Better Business Bureau are investigating. And FOX6's hidden cameras captured a sales demonstration so off the wall, it might take your breath away.

If you attend one of Cotton's free seminars, you'll see a demonstration that might appear to be something out of the Exorcist. It might sound like you're visiting Amsterdam's red light district. By gently touching trigger points on the body in a specific sequence, Michael Cotton claims you can send a surge of energy into an untapped part of the prefrontal cortex - what he calls your "higher brain." The part of the brain he says allows us to experience joy.

During a live demonstration on a hand-picked volunteer, Cotton lightly touches specific spots on the body -- the back, behind the knees, right around the tailbone -- and his subject begins to breathe deeply. Soon, her hips thrust upwards. Her shoulders rotate. Her arms flail to the side. The breaths gain intensity. The thrusting becomes more pronounced. She is moaning to the point that an audience member declares, "it looks orgasmic!" Another calls out, "I'll have what she's having."

Cotton insists the heavy breathing and body movements are automatic. He calls it "solutogenesis." And he says you can experience the same thing -- for a price. About $2,000 for 22 sessions.

Cotton is a Milwaukee-area chiropractor who unabashedly describes himself as a "leading revolutionary theorist," and says he developed this special technique through years of personal research.

"I started testing it on family and friends and clients," Cotton said, in a sit-down interview with FOX6 News.

The technique is the centerpiece of a 22-step self-development program that Cotton compares to "Reiki, Matrix Energetics, life coaching and Quantum Touch."

cotton 2

Michael Cotton CEO of Higher Brain Living

"It's like a light touch," he explained. "And the spontaneous response happens from the body's own internal wisdom."

He markets the program through online videos, social media and seminars. And over the past three years, he's licensed a handful of Higher Brain Living franchises, called "Awaken" centers.

The centers are operated by so-called "facilitators"-- people who've paid up to $14,000 to attend one of Cotton's annual training programs, so they can learn to perform the technique on others.

"My husband and I were both looking for something to do together to help people," said Andrea Louis-Visser, a client of Higher Brain Living who paid $9,995 to become a facilitator herself. She never completed the training.

"I want to be able to do this for other people," said Ann Sturdevant, a Higher Brain Learning "advanced facilitator" who is also a massage therapist.

"I thought this was a movement of people that were on a course to change the course of humanity," said a woman who asked that we identify her as "Ursula," another facilitator who paid for training.

They are among a handful of customers and investors in Higher Brain Living who are now filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

"When we see this amount of investment or this amount of money that's being asked as a refund, we get concerned," said Ran Hoth, president of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

"It's not just me," Sturdevant said. "There are other people that feel the same way."

Micheal Cotton conducts a demonstration on a pre-selected volunteer during his seminar in New York City on October 20, 2014. After a series of gentle touches, his subject begins to breathe heavily, gyrate and moan in what Cotton calls an "automated breath response."

Micheal Cotton conducts a demonstration on a pre-selected volunteer during his seminar in New York City on October 20, 2014. After a series of gentle touches, his subject begins to breathe heavily, gyrate and moan in what Cotton calls an "automated breath response."

Cotton says these are the first complaints he's received since starting Higher Brain Living in 2011. He provided FOX6 with the testimonials of happy customers from coast to coast. According to the document provided, they are educated professionals who call Cotton "brilliant" and Higher Brain Living a "sacred movement."

In just three years, Cotton says he's taught the technique to more than 240 people in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and more.

In October, the FOX6 Investigators sent producers with hidden cameras into a Higher Brain Living seminar in New York City. There, he told an audience of more than 100 people at the free seminar that they had to act fast to get in on this money-making venture.

"It is only available now through Wednesday," Cotton warned the crowd.

The BBB says that is a red flag.

"The faster someone wants to push you into making a decision, the slower you want to go," Hoth said.

"Early enrollment discounts are very common business practices," Cotton responded.

Cotton says there's nothing high-pressure about his presentations. And while his method may look strange, he insists it is grounded in science. He names specific researchers in his presentations, including Professor Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin.

"One of the most preeminent brain researchers in the world," Cotton said of Professor Davidson.

Professor Davidson, who is known for his research on the brain waves of monks in Tibet, also came up during a presentation in Milwaukee's Third Ward.

"And this is when the brain specialist said they have only seen those from those monks, meditating for 30 years.," said a Higher Brain Living facilitator giving the presentation.

Through a spokesperson, Professor Davidson tells FOX6 News he has never done any testing on participants of Higher Brain Living. He believes the use of his name is unethical.

"The facilitator may have been confused about how they said that," Cotton explained. "I have never taught that [Professor Davidson did actual testing on Higher Brain Living clients.]"

Cotton says other researchers have done brain scans showing his technique lights up the prefrontal cortex. But he acknowledges that no one has conducted a formal research study.

"No -- we do not have studies yet in peer-reviewed journals, but we are preparing for publication. It's finding the right journals that is the challenge," Cotton said.

The clients and facilitators who filed complaints with the BBB say they don't have a problem with the technique itself.

One woman, who asked that we disguise her face and call her "Ursula," swears by it.

'"Yeah, I do believe in it. Definitely," Ursula said.

Her complaint is that the company's supposedly lucrative business model is a myth.

"There was the possibility of, you know, having a six-figure income," she said.

According to a document obtained by the FOX6 Investigators, new recruits were given a series of "profit projections" ranging from  $118, 000 per year up to $378,000. But Cotton tells FOX6 those are just goals, not a guarantee.

"I did not get what I paid for in training," Sturdevant said.

"We paid a lot of money for this training and many of us feel like we are having a hard time getting clients," Ursula said.

Ursula invested $7,000 up front, plus hundreds more for mandatory guidebooks and a marketing plan.

FOX6's Bryan Polcyn: "How long have you been a facilitator?"

Ursula: "A year."

Polcyn: "How many clients have you had?"

Ursula: "Um...not counting my kids? One."

"I'm not surprised by that at all," Cotton said.

In fact, he says a lot of people pay to learn a skill, like massage therapy -- or spend thousands on law school, but that's no guarantee of success.

"The issue is truth in advertising," Hoth said.

All the more reason that before you shell out $7,000 or $10,000 or $14,000, be sure you're using your brain.

Cotton refers to himself as "Dr. Michael Cotton," even though his license to practice in Wisconsin is expired. He says the title of "doctor" is still accurate, since he holds a doctorate of chiropractic degree.

Cotton also says the recent spate of complaints to the BBB were orchestrated by a single, disgruntled former employee in Arizona. To counter the complaints, he provided FOX6 News with a PDF containing glowing testimonials from five individuals in various states around the country.

As for the people Cotton uses in his live demonstrations, they are not random audience volunteers. They are either existing clients of Higher Brain Living or facilitators with a financial stake in the success of the business.

Cotton says he does not use audience volunteers because the automated breath response doesn't always show up until a person is several sessions into the program.


  • Sherene

    The technique is totally legit and these are good, honest people behind this company. I went through training in 2012 and it was completely worth it and life-changing. Not everyone is cut out to run a successful business and Michael Cotton is completely upfront about that. I don’t perform the technique any longer due to personal changes in my family life, but I did for 2 years and it was fun, lucrative, and really helped people in a life-changing, positive way! I still receive sessions myself because I find them enormously helpful and stress-relieving.

    32 year old mom of 2 from Minneapolis.

  • Chris Multerer

    Snake oil it. This is the kind nonsense that they do in Hollywood, and the pea brained celebrities buy into it hook, line, and sinker. You can defend it all you want, it’s still BS.

    • Michael

      I do “professional” medical research and feasibility studies for clinical trials of new medical procedures to debunk fake or marginally effective modalities. I did quite a bit of research on Dr. Cottons theories and efficacy and the science backs it up. I Then decided to try the therapy, still with some skepticism. The effect it has had on my mind and body are unlike anything I have ever experienced. There were slight headaches at first while my pre-frontal cortex was “integrating” with my nervous system but then an incredible transformation occurred that is difficult to explain. The level of clarity and joy and connection to my faith have been off the charts. I feel like I am standing on a mountain top looking down at the things that used to concern me. So far it has been worth every penny and minute of time I have spent on this process. I highly recommend it. I have another treatment tomorrow and I can hardly wait. New doors in my mind that have since been closed are opening up again after every session. The first thing to disappear is fear. Very liberating.

  • dancing in the ruins

    hey everyone! i have come up with a revolutionary new way guaranteed to make you $1,000,000 over the internet by simply posting a message just like this! just send me $1,000,000 and i’ll tell you all about it!

  • Diane Wilczewski

    This has changed my life! I am a 53 year old woman, who drove 1 1/2 hours once a week for 22 sessions from Indiana to Chicago. I was able to get myself out of debt, switch professions for the first time in 30 years, and hand my husband divorce papers. I am soaring and it shows. I became a facilitator this summer and now have my own business too. I do not practice out of my home. My friends are coming to me because they notice a huge difference in me. I am doing this because I feel I owe it to society to spread the word. It is completely organic. I understand that you are skeptical. That’s fine, but until you actually get on a table and try the sample sessions, you have no right to say a word, Be real with yourself, have no fear, breathe deeper, it will astound you! If it doesn’t, don’t some back. It’s that simple. Feel free to look me up on the Higher Brain Living facilitator page. I am the only one in Indiana. I would love to skpe you….. in fact, you will not be the first!

  • Dr. Drew

    This is an amazing way for people to find out who they are and what they are willing to put forth. Many people think that they have what it takes when in reality there is not any amount of help to get them out of their neurotic tendencies. No one has ever been promised that this work does itself. You must apply the steps laid out or nothing happens.
    “Talk does not cook rice.” Japanese Proverb

  • Sheryl

    It is easy to discredit something that you fear or don’t understand. Change is very challenging to people. But those looking for change will find it with Higher Brain Living. Dr Drew is correct, you must apply yourself in order to see and be the change. People pay far more than $2000. looking for a better life and the results were not what they expected. This can and will create the change if your willing to do the work.

  • Julie

    I personally have only good things to say about Higher Brain Living and Dr. Cotton. His visionary teachings resonate with me fully. I am a facilitator in Los Angeles, and am happy for the opportunity to share his revolutionary process with others. Yes, it is a business with no guarantees…(Such is life!) And in my opinion, it is well worth the challenge. I also highly encourage anyone who is skeptical about the Higher Brain Living process, to give it a try before formulating an opinion. (Some of my happiest clients were the most skeptical to begin with!)

  • Ryan

    When I fell into my first presentation I was utterly freaked out and I didn’t know what to think. But I was curious, tried it out, and it proved to be an amazing program that changed my life.

  • Tae Hyun Kim

    Higher Brain Living is legitimate in every way, I’ve already had close to 20 sessions and I’m expected to become a facilitator this coming July in which I’m so excited about. My body did move in a wave like fashion in my 5th session that happened automatically. My first session I remember going back home and I was so much more productive and I’m still feeling very productive. I feel bad for the person who filed the complaint, sounds like this person had no sales skills to make it more lucrative. I’m glad Fox News didn’t put a bad spin on this, it sounded very fair.
    My first impression of Higher Brain Living was weird enough for me to stop researching it, then my friend got some sessions and told me all about it and once I got the sessions myself I decided to sign up and I haven’t looked back since.
    For the skeptics out there try a session and find out for yourself… The sessions are just gentle touch on the body, when the breath comes in naturally you’ll feel the effects that this stuff is real.

  • martymclemons

    My vote is revolutionary. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. Mahatma Gandhi

    I have spent close to a $100,000 on personal growth and development and from my experience , there has been no training I have done with more value to my growth. I also know of no other person trying to create a sustainable business model out of awakening humanity to its true potential. Humanity is a very well accepted and defined term and I not sure why it is in quotes? Learn to trust your own intuition and experience things for yourself . Ignore the “news” and educate yourself. Learn to judge for yourself who and what is in integrity. Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Being a victim to anything is a choice. Stand up and speak your own Truth. Growth work is extremely challenging. We are only held back in achieving anything because we don’t believe deep down we can do it. You can find me on the facilitator page of Higher Brain Living. I am happy Ursula to work with you in your growth process to ensure you get your money’s worth for free. Why write this? Because I love “humanity!”

  • Concerned Person, Paid $14,000 and trying to get my refund.

    Hello, I hope this is a legit business person. I paid $14,000 for the seminars and do not want to go forward. I will be asking for a refund. Will keep you all posted of Cotton’s intentions. If it is negative, I will be seeking releif through any and all legitimate means. Cheers!

  • susan

    “Higher Brain Living” has not demonstrated scientific integrity, and has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience: unsubstantiated claims, anecdotal evidence, heavy reliance on “authority,” scientific sounding but lacking in data. It is sad that people will spend their hard-earned money on something that has not gone through the rigours of real scientific testing, including treatment outcome comparisons with control groups, peer-review, and replication.

  • Informed

    The sales tactics appear unscrupulous- they did advertise that you could make a six figure income within a year of starting a business (a google search revealed this of he and a Jodi Fedor, who seems no longer affiliated with HBL) and clearly use manipulative sales tactics and sign up naive people, which is a shame. Most healing modalities don’t pressure people to sign up quickly to become practitioners, much less sign up people who have never even experienced the technique. Our lure them in with inflated sales projections. The greed is evident in watching the video of the sales presentation and those projections, which are absurdly high. Something is out of whack with integrity.

    There are a lot of other options out there if you want to grow and heal. Humanity is not served by selling people on far fetched business plans.


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  • Amazed

    Look at all these strange spam like recent posts on this article that’s over a year old. I think someone must be trying to bury this story, make it seem less relevant to search engines. Well written article, does seem pretty fair and balanced overall. But they didn’t catch on that he’s really selling his own version of NSA Network Spinal Analysis, a type of chiropractic See
    Personally I love getting NSA sessions and I would not want to do Michael Cottons version, just feels off to me. Some people seem to love it- well then they would like NSA too and get good results in their lives. It’s an interesting world indeed. I do hope people are honestly helped by this.

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  • IAMiam

    There are a lot of scams in this whole spirituality,, consciousness exploring, transformation arena. . But did this Michael Cotton deliver on his promises, did he rope people in, take their money. How many are making those sales projections? Does he sleep well at night having behaved less than ethically? Higher brain living- you really would expect something more elevated than the same old scams, preying on people. Note to everyone- if someone is trying to get you to buy something quickly, especially a strange new healing technique- they just want your money. Beware.

  • Walter

    Perhaps Michael Cotton is genuine but after practicing chiropractic for many years, Mr. Cotton’s “discovery” is a blatant rip-off of Donald Epstein’s original work …Network Chiropractic/ Network Spinal Analysis. I guess being a “Leading Evolutionary Theorist” absolves him of common sense. There’s nothing wrong with a synthesis of multiple works, as he claims to have done – but have the decency to give credit where credit is due. Nowhere in Cotton’s writing does he do this relative to Dr. Epstein. On his website he states that his is the only technique in the world to consistently and repeatedly take us out of the lower brain and into the higher brain. Dr. Virgil Chrane (Alphabiotics) has taught and practiced this since the 1950’s! when Cotton was still in diapers. Humility is a function of the pre-frontal cortex, so why doesn’t Cotton demonstrate any?

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