New technology monitors autonomic nervous system, identifying changes and soothing its wearer.
If you’re stressed, you’re not alone — according to Robert Goldberg, co-founder of Neumitra, over 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with clinical anxiety and 200,000 prescriptions are written every year for sedative drugs. The “stress epidemic” is also more deadly than American warfare, claiming more members of the armed forces who suffer from PTSD than combat each year. While the solution seems as simple as reducing stress, that’s often not an option and many times we can be under stress without realizing it.
Five neuroscientists from MIT, who certainly are no strangers to stress and anxiety, used their knowledge of how stress affects the body to create a prototype wrist watch called Bandu, which has sensors that monitor output from the autonomic nervous system (perspiration, respiration and heart rate) and movement to determine when an individual is experiencing heightened levels of anxiety. When Bandu detects bodily stress, it flashes a message that instructs wearers to slow down and take a break, suggesting actions such as “call a loved one” or “take 5 deep breaths.” It can also be customized to play a specific song or display a personal message. All of this information is monitored and recorded onto an associated app on your smartphone, as well as being sent to the creator’s lab, Neumitra. Over time, the watch will sense which relaxation techniques work best for the individual and better its responses.
To clarify, there are many types of stress and to an extent, stress is good for us. It motivates people to do things and can save lives in a fight-or-flight situation. Many business professionals feed off of stress and report that they work better with it; however, only temporary stress is healthy. Long-term stress shrinks the hippocampus in the brain and enlarges the amygdala, restricts blood flow to the body’s core, away from its extremities and reeks havoc on the immune system. Stress also begins to erode both long and short-term memory, attention to detail and overall health.
Neumitra hopes that Bandu can help the collective good, learning more about what triggers stress and effective calming methods, as well as bodily responses. Goldberg stressed that device will remain a separate entity from the body, so that users can personally monitor and control their actions and responses, using it as a daily device. The app stores the user’s output records, as well as the controls for messages, music, and feedback. It even uses GPS to track geographically where people were stressed and allows them to draw their own conclusions about the significance of the location.
Bandu has already secured seed money from Yahoo and Boston Scientific, as well as winning the DEMO God award at the DEMO Conference and is participating in Rock Health, a first seed accelerator for digital start-ups. Neumitra is holding a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo for an initial goal of $250,000 for its first production round. Those interested can donate to the cause and even receive a device at and above the $189 mark.
Images via Vimeo (screenshots)
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