Stress has many manifestations, both psychologically and physiologically.

While our ancestors could easily get rid of threatening situations and stress by following the simple rule to “fight or flight” (as described by US Psychologist W. Cannon), it is a little more complicated today. You might be able to overcome temporary stress with a weekend getaway – however, chronic stress can have a negative impact on brain structures and functions as well as immune and cardiovascular systems. To date, all pharmacological methods come with side effects for cognition and attention as well as the risk of addiction. Cognitive-behavioral methods like meditation, on the other hand, require heavy time investments and committed training that often prohibit high compliance rates.

Thync Inc. recently announced results from a study using iMotions Biometric Research Platform which show that transdermal electrical neurosignaling (TEN) delivered by a wearable stimulation device reduces the brain’s response to stress without impeding cognitive performance.

Thync provides high-frequency, pulse-modulated electrical currents to the right temple and the base of the neck, which are propagated along the trigeminal and facial nerves to specific stress-sensitive areas in the brainstem. These areas modulate our sympathetic level of arousal – and with it, the aforementioned fight-or-flight tendencies under acute stress. In the study, stress induction via threatening still images and videos as well as the synchronized acquisition of optical heart rate (HR) and electrodermal activity/skin conductance (EDA/GSR) with a wireless Shimmer sensor were accomplished in iMotions Biometric Research Platform. Heart rate and skin conductance are considered to be the best physiological correlates of emotional arousal and stress since they are both under the control of sympathetic activity.

Out of the 82 respondents participating in the study, 97% reported greater relaxation levels during the 14-minute session with Thync’s TEN stimulation device compared to a placebo condition with non-effective currents. In addition to the subjective self-reports, the effect of TEN stimulation on sympathetic brain centers could also be quantified physiologically: TEN had the positive effect of significantly reduced variability in heart rate and skin conductance in response to stress. Importantly, stimulation with the Thync device did not impair the respondents’ cognitive performance or executive processing. As stated by the authors, “results indicate that while TEN can suppress sympathetic activity in response to acute stress, it does so without impeding general/executive cognitive performance.”

“This particular observation was a breakthrough for us because it showed that we can suppress one of the body’s primary biochemical responses to acute stress by tapping into specific neural pathways,” said Jamie Tyler, CSO and co-founder of Thync. “Dampening sympathetic tone using TEN in such a manner represents a promising approach to managing daily stress and improving brain health.”

The full paper is available via bioRxiv, providing a scientific description of how transdermal electrical neurosignaling (TEN) reduces the brain’s response to stress via sympathetic neural pathways.

Tyler, Boasso, Charlesworth, Marlin, Aebersold, Aven, Wetmore, & Pal (2015). Suppression of human psychophysiological and biochemical stress responses using high-frequency pulse-modulated transdermal electrical neurosignaling. bioRxiv. Retrieved from http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2015/02/20/015032

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