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The first Apollo Neuro PTSD clinical trial is complete

Empty city scape under a bridge in black and white
- Mar 22, 2021

The Background

Apollo Neuro co-founder Dr. Dave Rabin MD, PhD is a trauma-informed psychiatrist who has spent over 15 years studying chronic stress and working with clients with treatment-resistant mental health conditions that are worsened by stress. Many of the clients that Dr. Dave has worked with suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a disorder that can develop after a shocking, scary, or dangerous event and has been found to result in a sustained hyperactivity of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) branch of the autonomic nervous system. 

PTSD is known to be related to fear conditioning, which results in an overactive fear response to situations that remind the individual of the original traumatic event [1,2,3]. To help clients extinguish fear and tap into feelings of safety, Dr. Dave’s psychotherapy protocols typically involve techniques like empathic listening and breathwork, which help signal safety to the brain and help establish the fertile ground for healing to take root. 

This led Dr. Dave to ask the question: what if there were other ways to create a feeling of safety - quickly and reliably, without as much effort or assistance from others? He began research and development in the lab at The University of Pittsburgh in 2014 to find a solution. And with that, the seed for the Apollo Neuro technology was planted. 

The Apollo wearable is currently being used by tens of thousands of people to aid in stress relief, for more relaxation, focus, and sleep. The wearable has also been studied in clinical trials in people who suffer from PTSD who seek that sense of security and control.

The Study

A clinical trial of the Apollo wearable was just completed, focusing on understanding the relationship between symptoms of PTSD and soothing touch in a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and The New School in New York City. 

See the clinical trial

The Hypothesis

Apollo wearable use will improve quality of life in people with PTSD across the domains of sleep, emotion regulation, engagement, and focus.

The Design

University of Pittsburgh PTSD Clinical Trial: 16 individuals with PTSD (as assessed by PCL-5/CAPS-5), many of whom were military veterans, were assessed physiologically and mechanisms of attentional focus on cognitive and emotional stimuli were evaluated. Participants received an Apollo wearable to take home for two weeks to determine if the Apollo wearable touch therapy vibrations help alleviate stress, and symptoms in everyday life related to PTSD. Success will suggest a new intervention pathway for a traditionally treatment-resistant dimension of psychopathology.

The Outcome:

15 out of 16 participants described the two week experience with the Apollo wearable as “life-changing” with respect to sleep, focus, and mood. All participants reported that Apollo vibrations were effective at helping them improve engagement in life activities by making it much easier to return from a ‘shut-down’ or dissociated state. Participants also reported that they noticed substantial improvements in mood, focus and sleep with the greatest improvements in their ability to regulate emotions. 

Participants reported the device was effective in all examined domains: return from shut down state, focus, regulate emotions, and sleep
Participants reported the device was effective in all examined domains

 

What’s Next:

Two more large clinical trials evaluating the Apollo wearable in PTSD patients are currently underway and recruiting participants. The first at the Rocky Mountain VA in Denver, CO and the second, a nationwide trial, evaluating the Apollo wearable to sustain remission from PTSD following MDMA-assisted therapy. This second trial is open to anyone who has participated in a MAPS trial of MDMA-assisted therapy. To check your eligibility to participate, click here.

Additionally, see the results from the Apollo Neuro real-world PTSD study.

 

1. Morey RA, Dunsmoor JE, Haswell CC, Brown VM, Vora A, Weiner J, Stjepanovic D, Wagner HR 3rd; VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, LaBar KS. Fear learning circuitry is biased toward generalization of fear associations in posttraumatic stress disorder. Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Dec 15;5(12):e700. doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.196. PMID: 26670285; PMCID: PMC5068591.

 

2. Zhang X, Kim J, Tonegawa S. Amygdala Reward Neurons Form and Store Fear Extinction Memory. Neuron. 2020 Mar 18;105(6):1077-1093.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.12.025. Epub 2020 Jan 14. PMID: 31952856.

 

3. Izquierdo I, Furini CR, Myskiw JC. Fear Memory. Physiol Rev. 2016 Apr;96(2):695-750. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00018.2015. PMID: 26983799.