The science behind the healing power of touch: exploring the neurobiology of human connection

The science behind the healing power of touch: exploring the neurobiology of human connection

 Our sense of touch helps us restore a sense of control and agency in the present moment by bringing us back to our bodies. Our minds can be anywhere at any time — they can be in the past, present, or future. If we’re not conscious of where our mind is, that’s generally a sign that it is in the past or the future. Focusing on breathing or the feeling of soothing touch instantly brings us back into our bodies, which helps center us firmly in the present. The present moment is where we regain control over what’s going on in our lives. This is where we can squeeze the real juice out of life, unlocking our potential to heal and thrive.

I am a neuroscientist, board-certified psychiatrist, inventor, and clinical researcher. I have studied trauma and chronic stress's impact on humans for over a decade and have dedicated much of my life to helping people heal from trauma by activating safety pathways in the brain. In my clinical practice, I specialize in challenging mental health disorders, like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Through this work, I realized the critical need for more tools that could help before we receive a diagnosis from a doctor and I became dedicated to helping people heal and prevent illness before it happens. 

You don’t need to look far to see people that are lonely or not feeling connected enough to people around them. Emotionally relevant and impactful relationships can be hard to find and vulnerable to pursue. Working with clients, I see the hunger many people have for closeness. This void takes a toll on us where we become irritable and restless, or we don’t feel safe or lovable. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who don’t feel like they are lovable because they never received loving touch and comfort as children. 

What happens is, in exchange, we seek alternatives to being touched. We seek substitutes like alcohol, drugs or self-medicating to take away that restlessness. Soothing touch is something you can get for free from your loved ones. Its even something we can learn to give to ourselves. It’s incredibly effective to help us settle down our stress response system when it’s overactive by reminding us that that we’re safe enough to feel good. We need to have close human interactions and soothing touch as a central part of our lives starting early. It shapes our emotional landscape that we take with us for our whole lives. Current neuroscience teaches us that it makes a big difference to teach this early along with empathy, sharing, and concentration.

When I started my research on the negative impact of feeling disconnected and alone, clients’ bodies showed signs of a lack of safety; a fear response. This includes high heart rate, high blood pressure, racing thoughts, poor sleep, food and digestion irregularities, immunity issues, and difficulty recovering from illness. All of these things are signs that the fight-or-flight system has been turned up way too high for too long and that the recovery system, has been shut down for too long because the body perceives a continuous threat. I had a need in my work for a tool that would rapidly induce feelings of safety, reset the nervous system, that folks use at home or at work without my supervision required. And so the Apollo™ wearable was born. I was on a mission to give patients more safe tools they could take out of the doctor’s office; more tools to remind us that we have control over how we feel anytime, anywhere. The Apollo technology was first developed for my patients, but it became clear rather quickly that it worked for everyone including yours truly, my friends and family, and all my clinician colleagues working long stressful hospital shifts. The gentle, soothing vibrations just make you feel really, really good and feeling good has a tremendous impact on our lives, from public speaking to focus to meditating and sleeping.

The Apollo technology is based on decades, but really centuries, of research from neuroscience, psychotherapy, psychiatry, psychology, biofeedback and Eastern Medicine disciplines such as meditation, yoga, music, and massage — all combined into one cutting-edge technology that people can take with them on the go. Tested by thousands in clinical trials and real-world studies, the Apollo wearable can rapidly help bring the body into a meditative state or a state of recovery, balance, and safety through our sense of touch just by feeling it. To develop the Apollo technology, we combined low-frequency inaudible sound waves (patented bass frequencies) that feel like soothing touch to compose music for your body instead of your ears. These vibrations, known as Apollo Vibes, safely and reliably change how we feel through our sense of touch. Across studies, subjects have experienced up to 30 more minutes of sleep each night, 11% increase in HRV on average, up to 19% more deep sleep, up to 25% better focus, and 40% less stress and feelings of anxiety on average with consistent use of the Apollo wearable. Apollo is the first wearable technology to significantly improve HRV just by feeling it on your body.

When we’re stressed out, entering a state of calm is often really, really hard. Apollo helps nudge us into a calm and present state within as little as a couple of minutes when used under stress, increasing our ability to perform in challenging situations and, over time, improving our resilience to stress. This allows us to feel much better, get more high-quality sleep, and flow through the day gracefully. Consistently using the Apollo wearable increases our ability to adapt to stress in our clinical trials, as seen by improved heart rate variability (HRV) and performance under stress. Just set it and forget it!

Apollo is the response to the critical importance, and modern drought, of loving touch in our lives. Touch is the single most powerful way we convey safety to one another. It’s hardwired into our nervous systems and has been for at least 200 million years dating back to the first mammals that nursed their newborns. And I couldn’t be more proud of what our team has created to bring the healing feeling of safety, peacefulness, and grace to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe!