Like a meandering gypsy, the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve, literally “wandering” (the meaning of the Latin root “vagus”) through the body and conversing with your heart, gut and every other organ.
Whether you realize it or not, this nerve impacts so much of your everyday life—assisting the immune system, analyzing an environment for danger, even helping you manage your fears. Often dubbed the body’s “information superhighway,” this relatively unknown nerve connects the brain to every other part of the body, creating a constant flow of two-way communication.
“The vagus nerve is the body’s superpower,” writes Sarah Jeanne Browne in Forbes. “It’s how you develop a healthy stress response and become resilient. When stimulated, you feel calmer, more compassionate, and clearer.”
However, when you enter a fight-or-flight mode – especially in times of great or prolonged stress – it can be hard to convince your body you’re no longer in danger. That leads to a nervous system that stays vigilantly on edge, even when you’re perfectly safe—a body and mind actively fighting for your very survival, instead of allowing you to focus on your daily tasks or even sleep through the night.
Relatively new research, however, has proven that a variety of exercises and activities – like breath work, meditation, yoga, probiotics, even singing – can have a measurable and positive impact on the vagus nerve and the nervous system.
One innovative wearable combines a couple of these effective activities into one easy solution.
The power of touch
The Apollo wearable is designed to specifically target your nervous system—all from a band you wear around your ankle or wrist. Developed by neuroscientists and doctors at Pittsburgh-based Apollo Neuroscience, it offers a new way of leveraging the power of “touch therapy” using silent, soothing vibrations.
“Touch exerts physiological and biochemical changes that enhance well-being, sharpen focus and enhance pain resilience, among other profound effects,” the company writes. “Touch stimulates the vagus nerve because of the interconnections between vagal fibers and pressure detectors in the skin. The vagal fibers talk to the emotional systems in the brain involved in the regulation of the nervous system and secretion of stress hormones like cortisol.”
Of course, anyone who’s had a massage can attest to the therapeutic power of touch, but caregivers often don’t have a lot of extra time to meet with a massage therapist. So, Apollo designed its wearable to mimic the same soothing benefits of touch, all in the convenience of a small device you wear on your wrist or ankle.
“The Apollo wearable soothes the nervous system through the power of touch,” the company writes. “The body responds to the Apollo wearable like it does to touch because its vibrations mimic natural oscillation patterns between the heart and lungs activated during deep breathing.”
And those patterns, the company reports, are connected with improved nervous system balance, stress resilience, cognitive performance and heart rate variability (a measurement of how you recover from stress throughout the day).
Restoring balance to the nervous system
Designed to be worn throughout the day and night (or as needed), the Apollo offers various modes to adapt to the various stages and stresses of the day. They all allow you to select the intensity of the vibrations and their duration, and the accompanying smartphone app controls the device and offers recommendations.
Basically, it’s designed to help calm your nerves and boost what’s known as your parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us back from “fight or flight” to “rest and recover.”
“The goal is a balanced nervous system,” said Dr. David Rabin, MD, PhD, neuroscientist and psychiatrist and Apollo co-founder. “The Apollo Neuro was designed to restore that balance … These waves of vibrations send safety signals to the brain activating your parasympathetic nervous system and giving your body and mind a chance to recover.”
While the Apollo Neuro is new, Rabin said, the problem it hopes to solve is something humans have always struggled with.
“While the tech is pioneering, the principle is as old as time,” he said. “Stressful things will always come our way, and we can’t control that. But we can control our reaction—how we adapt to it and grow from it.”
Shop for the Apollo Neuro wearable and the company’s other related products at apolloneuro.com.