Science

We’re bringing the best of neuroscience to improve your health and wellbeing.

Born in the Lab

Apollo Neuroscience was born from research at the University of Pittsburgh. Drs. David Rabin MD, PhD and Greg Siegle PhD worked together at the Program in Cognitive Affective Neuroscience to develop and scientifically prove out the Apollo technology.

Together, they discovered that certain combinations of low frequency inaudible sound waves (vibration that you can feel, but can’t hear) can safely and reliably change how we feel through our sense of touch, and that we can measure those physiological changes in near real time.

After 5 years of development and testing Apollo in the lab and in the real world, we’re releasing Apollo publicly.

Learn more

Stress Biology 101

Chronic stress makes us sick & makes it harder to recover

Have you ever felt like you had so much to do that you can’t focus on anything? Have you laid awake at night unable to sleep because your mind is racing? Have you had such a stressful day that your body feels run down and sore?

Chronic stress strains the whole body by over-activating our sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response), releasing stress hormones like cortisol, making our breathing shallow and fast, and sending our heart rates up and our HRV (Heart Rate Variability) down[1,2].

When the fight-or-flight response is active frequently it makes it physiologically harder to focus, meditate, relax, sleep, or even exercise because our body and mind are both signaling each other that we are under threat and need to be escaping danger, not sleeping or focusing on our work[1,2].

Sleep, meditation, relaxation practices and regular exercise help us to recover from stress by engaging the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, but they are all physically and mentally harder to do when we’re overwhelmed by chronic stress[1,2].

Cortisol Crystals Image

When left unchecked, chronic stress increases your risk of developing insomnia, anxiety-disorders, depression, and chronic pain[2-6]. Chronic stress exhausts us, makes us unhappy, disrupts our mood, causes tension and pain, and impairs our sleep.

How does chronic stress lower HRV and why does it matter?

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measures the rate of change of the heart beat over time[2]. Having high HRV is a good thing. It means that your body can quickly adapt and recover from stress.

When we encounter stress in our environment, our heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure should go up so we can quickly respond to a threat[1,2]. When we’re calm, our heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure should be at comfortable resting rate. This is our body’s way of maintaining balance between thriving and surviving over time.

LOW HRV

Having consistently low HRV indicates that your body isn’t adapting to or recovering well from stress[2].

This could mean a number of things:

  • You aren’t sleeping well
  • You’ve exhausted your body
  • You’re getting sick.

Those of us with consistently low HRV have a higher likelihood of developing:

  • Injuries
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Depression

[2, 7-8, 10-13, 15-18, 20, 23]

HIGH HRV

High HRV indicates that your body is resilient, recovering well, and able to bounce back from stress quickly[2].

The following contribute to high HRV:

  • Restorative sleep
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy relationships

Those of us with consistently high HRV are more likely to have better:

  • Focus
  • Calm
  • Performance (athletic and cognitive)
  • Breathing
  • Pain tolerance
  • Blood pressure
  • Sleep
  • Resilience

[2, 9, 14, 15, 19, 21, 26-29]

HRV is the most reliable, non-invasive biometric of stress, measuring the balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems[1,2].

Stress Biology 201

The autonomic nervous system governs all the activity in our body from our heart beat, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and hormones to our digestion, blood flow, how much sugar is in our blood, our vision, our reproduction, and the list goes on[1].

Our health and survival (no kidding) are dependent on the dynamic relationships between the two branches of the autonomic nervous system: the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branch and the sympathetic (fight or flight) branch [1].

Parasympathetic branch

The parasympathetic branch is responsible for conserving energy for when we need it next[1, 2]. It is activated by safety. When we are safe enough to sleep, meditate, listen to soothing music or experience soothing touch, our parasympathetic system engages, lowering our heart rate and blood pressure, improving our HRV (heart rate variability), and supporting reproduction, creativity, and energy recovery. This rest and relaxation are key so that we have enough energy to survive a threat whenever it comes.

Sympathetic branch

The purpose of our sympathetic “fight-or-flight” system is to kick in so we can survive a threat[1, 2]. When we experience a threat, whether that be a lion or a stressful email, our heart rate and blood pressure go up, blood rushes to the heart and to our muscles, our liver releases sugar into the blood, and digestion slows down so we can escape from whatever is threatening us and reach safety.

pawel-nolbert-4u2U8EO9OzY-unsplash
The problem is that chronic stress from modern life is constantly sending signals to our bodies that we’re under threat. This excess of activity in our fight-or-flight response has real consequences for our wellbeing and our long-term health.

Left unchecked, stress increases the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as insomnia, anxiety disorders, depression, chronic pain, memory loss, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even birth defects in our children[3-25]. Chronic stress also disrupts personal well-being, relationships, and sexual activity. As we all know, stress commonly interferes with our ability to be kind and good-natured with our family, co-workers, and our friends. While low HRV predicts poor sleep, focus, and an elevated risk of physical and mental illness, high HRV predicts resilience, consistent performance, better sleep, and lower chances of getting sick[2].

The Science Behind Apollo

Apollo uses waves of vibration that are demonstrated in both the lab and the real world to change the balance of our nervous systems through our sense of touch.

Here’s what we know from the Scientific Literature:

Touch changes how we feel, and science has proven it.

Touch is a powerful sense. Evolutionarily, it is the most important way that mammals communicate safety to one another[30-40]. Different forms of touch (vibration, electricity, heat, cold, soothing massage, etc) can change how we feel in ways that can be measured biologically. Extensive reports demonstrate that certain frequencies of vibration are found to be soothing and significantly increase parasympathetic tone, as measured by heart rate variability (HRV), while others can be more energizing, increasing our heart rate and other measures of sympathetic activity[2, 41-54].

What makes Apollo different from any vibration you’ve felt before?

It’s all about balance

Apollo isn’t just about relaxing, and it isn’t just about performing. Apollo is about physical and mental balance and we’ve designed each set of modes to help your body gently transition through your natural response to touch.

How? We combined frequencies of vibration known to change our energy levels by increasing or decreasing parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity[41-54]. Modes designed for rest and relaxation contain more slow-moving gentle frequencies known to increase parasympathetic activity, the branch of your nervous system that is activated when you meditate, deep breathe, and sleep [2, 9, 14, 27-31]. Modes for energy contain vibration frequencies known in the literature to increase heart rate and blood flow for increased energy and alertness[2, 41-54].

Every single Apollo mode, whether it is designed to increase wakefulness or to help you fall asleep, is designed to restore your body by improving heart rate variability (HRV).

How does Apollo change HRV?

Apollo vibrations feel like waves coming and going. This sensation feels natural because it is. Apollo’s modes match a natural oscillation pattern between our heart and our lungs when we deep breathe, which consistently improves HRV in lab trials and in real world use. When our bodies feel the rhythm of the Apollo vibrations, it is automatically recognized by the body as soothing gentle touch, just like a friend giving you a hug on a bad day.

We’ve gone beyond the literature to independently test Apollo in academic-led trials.

Before we built Apollo, Dr. David Rabin MD, PhD and Dr. Greg Siegle PhD studied Apollo vibrations at the University of Pittsburgh. They went beyond the literature to test how Apollo vibrations would change the body in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover trial of 38 subjects at the University of Pittsburgh.

Preliminary findings suggest that the specific vibration patterns used in the Apollo technology increase the ability to focus and remain calm during periods of stress and that these specific vibration patterns improve the body’s ability to recover and be resilient to stress, as measured by HRV. These improvements in HRV are accompanied by proportionate improvements in cognitive and physical performance under stress.

Subsequent university pilots and trials have shown that Apollo consistently improves HRV under stress within 2-3 minutes, improves athletic recovery, and supports access to meditative states.

Check out our research

What we learned from over 2,000 tests in the real world

We studied the literature before we created Apollo’s frequencies. We tested Apollo’s frequencies in university trials before we built the product. Each and every program is based on our knowledge of the body’s response to vibration and we learned so much from listening to our real-world users. They told us how they felt, what they used Apollo for, and they shared their data.

And we listened – Apollo’s modes are organized based on the science of how our body responds to Apollo vibrations, Apollo trials in the lab, and the experiences of our users.

The science behind the modes

Energy

Energy and Wake Up

“Energy and Wake Up” mode is designed to improve wakefulness and attention by combining frequencies of vibration known to gently elevate heart rate[41-47] with those vibrations shown to improve physical and mental recovery from stress, as measured by HRV[2, 48-54]. Apollo users typically use this mode in the morning and whenever they need a burst of energy.

Social and Open

Social and Open

“Social and Open” mode combines frequencies of vibration shown to improve recovery and HRV and to increase both energy levels and feelings of calm[2, 41-54]. They are designed to help you feel engaged and at ease. Apollo users typically use this mode most often for socializing and networking.

Focus

Clear and Focused

“Clear and Focused” mode combines frequencies of vibration shown to improve performance and HRV and to lower heart rate under stress[2, 42-54]. Scientific literature and university-led trials demonstrate that frequencies in the “Clear and Focused” mode improve focus and feelings of calm. Apollo users typically use this mode for cognitive and athletic performance and creative work.

Recovery

Rebuild and Recover

“Rebuild and Recover” mode combines frequencies of vibration shown to improve HRV[2, 42-54]. Pilot trials show that these frequencies help us return to our natural resting heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure more quickly after physical and cognitive exertion. Apollo users typically use this mode for improved recovery from physical strain due to exercise, mental or emotional stress, or when feeling under the weather.

Meditation and Mindfulness Illustration

Meditation and Mindfulness

“Meditation and Mindfulness” mode combines frequencies of vibration shown to improve HRV[2, 48-54] with others shown to improve our awareness of our bodies[2, 27-33]. By helping the body and mind relax into one another, these frequencies help users ease into and reach deeper meditation states more easily. Apollo users also use this mode for relief from persistent soreness and tension.

Relax and Unwind Illustration

Relax and Unwind

“Relax and Unwind” mode combines frequencies shown to support relaxation and recovery by increasing parasympathetic (rest and digest) activity in the nervous system and improving HRV [2, 27-33, 42-54]. Apollo users most often use this mode to unwind or before sleep.

Sleep and Renew Illustration

Sleep and Renew

“Sleep and Renew” is the most gentle of the Apollo modes. Shown to improve parasympathetic activity and to aid in relaxation[2, 42-54], Apollo trial participants reported feeling sleepy within minutes of using these frequencies. “Sleep and Renew” mode is most often to help users fall asleep more easily, particularly after busy days, travel, and times of stress.

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