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Report of the Evidence, an Independent Academic Viewpoint
By Dr David Broome
TOUCHPOINT is a non-invasive wearable that use a somatosensory-based methodology, called Bi-Lateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile (BLAST) stimulation training. They give the user a gentle vibration that affects the brain to reduce body sensations, shift the body's fight, flight or freeze response and create neural pathways.
Having reviewed the Touchpoint website and promotional material, it is claimed using the TOUCHPOINT can relieve stress by over 70% in as little as 30 seconds. As well as alleviating insomnia and general stress, it is also reported that TOUCHPOINT can help users cope with conditions such as Parkinson's, Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The following is a review of the science that supports the claims which has been informed by the personal use and examination of the basic model.
The product was developed by Neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin using quantitative electroencephalogram data, existing neuroscience research and archival data of the salience network (SN). The SN consists of the amygdala, insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex which are involved in the detection of salient internal and external stimuli. Abnormal conduction in the SN can lead to hyperarousal, fear, stress and potentially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). BLAST Technology has been shown to positively alter various brain functions and the mechanism of action is consistent with the alternating hemispheric activation hypothesis proposed by Propper and Christman (2008). This postulates that rapidly alternating patterns of electrical activity in the two hemispheres increases inter-hemispheric interaction reducing sympathetic activation by reducing the electrical activity of key areas of the SN.
Dr. Serin has published widely in the area and recent work has highlighted the therapeutic benefit to individuals using TOUCHPOINT with high or pathological levels of anxiety or stress. Serin, Hageman and Kade (2018) examined 1109 people with PTSD who initially rated levels of emotional stress and bodily distress on a scale of 0 (no stress / distress) to 10 (worst stress / distress of one's life) before and after the application of TOUCHPOINT. Results highlighted a statistically significant reduction in the levels of both emotional stress (62%) and bodily distress (50%) after only 30 seconds of use. Mindful of only referring to evidence published by the products developer, data from two independent studies (albeit unpublished) have been reviewed.
Firstly, Junior and Johnson (unpublished findings) undertook a placebo-controlled, triple blind clinical trial of 80 male participants aged 18-35 years who were randomised into a treatment group (n=40) or a control (placebo) group (n=40). Outcome measures were the TOUCHPOINT challenge score (TPC - a subjective rating of the level of emotional stress) and salivary cortisol levels obtained before treatment, immediately following the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and 20 minutes thereafter. Results showed that the treatment group had a statistically greater decrease in the TPC score relative to the control group both immediately following the TSST and 20 minutes after. Salivary cortisol levels in the treatment group were also lower than the control group.
Secondly (unpublished findings) examined 4 pupils with severe learning difficulties in a special education school in South Wales. Behaviour was monitored the week prior to using TOUCHPOINT in which its use resulted in a decreased frequency of disruptive behaviours such as lying on the floor, screaming and hair pulling. However, due to the low sample size further investigation is warranted.
Once charged the TOUCHPOINT devices were easy to set up, merely having to insert them onto wrist straps. They are typically worn on the wrists, but can be held, or clipped to clothing as well as placed around the ankles. They are simple to activate by pressing the 'on button' until a green light appears. The user then selects the desired setting by pressing the button again with the blue light indicating the 'sleep' setting, the yelllow light indicating the 'calm' setting, and the purple light indicating the 'anger' setting. The intensity of the vibration increases as you progress through the settings. There is a useful feature in that if you position the second TOUCHPOINT close to the first, with the lights facing each other, the second will automatically synchronise with the first TOUCHPOINT. It is simple to switch off i.e. all that is needed is to hold the two devices away from each other and press the button on each until the lights fade.
Wearing the TOUCHPOINTS is no different to wearing a watch on each wrist so they are lightweight and can be easily removed, stored and carried. TOUCHPOINT can be used anywhere and the vibration is no louder than a mobile phone. I was easily able to use it in my office whilst working.
Users are encouraged to undertake a challenge which has been mentioned in the aforementioned research i.e the TPC. I personally rated a stressful event 8 / 10 and did experience what I would consider a significant reduction after a few minutes of use.
One limitation is that the 'yellow' illumination is not that different from the 'green' which took a little time to figure out. I personally found the purple 'anger' setting too intense as it was distracting. However, I found benefit using the 'yellow' and 'blue' settings which I anticipate may not be appropriate for other users. In sum you have options for preference as the situation demands.
The vision of TOUCHPOINT is to create a more healthy, peaceful, and productive world through a fundamental shift in the way people understand and handle their stress response by making BLAST technology affordable and accessible for everyone. The burgeoning evidence suggests that TOUCHPOINTS may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety and may lead to reduced inflammation after exposure to stressful situations. The claims and benefits of TOUCHPOINT are supported by specific product testing by academics.
Propper, R.E. and Christman, S.D. (2008). Interhemispheric Interaction and Saccadic Horizontal Eye Movements Implications for Episodic Memory, EMDR, and PTSD. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(4), 269-281.
Serin, A. Hageman, N. and Kade, E. (2018). The Therapeutic Effect of Bilateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile Form Technology on the Stress Response. Journal Of Biotechnology And Biomedical Science, 1(2), 42 -47.
Unpublished findings x 2
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Review completed and approved for use by Sheffield Hallam University
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