Note: This article is written by Gérard Sunnen, MD, Director of Research for PulseWear, LLC, maker of DreamOn, a multi-patented tactile stimulator undergoing research and development for various physiological remediation purposes, including sleep quality enhancement.
DreamOn delivers ultra-low tactile frequencies that invite brainwaves to progressively relax their fast pace so that they may enter territories associated with Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). In order to be effective, tactile signals need to be adjusted to patented frequencies, proper intensities, and must conform to characteristics that give them the ability to engage a wide spectrum of dermal receptors. This quest has required years of research.
Tactile messages generated by DreamOn are picked up by a variety of skin, deep tissue and muscle receptors. From there they course to the brain where they fan out to reach centers regulating basic functions, including circadian rhythms.
Via brain mechanisms of entrainment, pacing, synchronicity and resonance, DreamOn assists in guiding the nervous system to assume brain rhythms that are associated with relaxation, stress dissolution, and eventually, slumber and sleep. SWS, the most coveted sleep rhythms after and active day, make for the restoration of energy reserves that contribute to alertness and positive daytime moods.
DreamOn’s effectiveness is enhanced by techniques of concentration and visualization. By directing gentle mindful attention to the experience of DreamOn’s signals, more of the brain’s neurons are recruited. Indeed, awareness kindles DreamOn’s capacities. With repeated use, its signals come to be established as conditioned reflexes that, with each experience, ever more promptly and automatically yield their desired effects.
As outlined in granted patents, DreamOn’s technology is based on several principles of nervous system function. This text is intended for those who are interested in these rather specialized dynamics.
Some fundamental facts about the brain and its networks are important to DreamOn’s appreciation. The building blocks of the nervous system are cells, neurons, that have the unique ability to generate electric potentials in their membranes. They are supported by an extensive network of supporting cells, the glia. Neurons communicate among themselves via incoming and outgoing fibers, dendrites and axons respectively, that transmit excitation through points of contact, synapses, by way of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. The nervous system is a supremely responsive electro-chemical organ.
All neurons in the body are connected in some way or other, whether by direct synaptic contact, indirectly via other neurons, or via blood-borne messengers such as hormones. All neurons are living alerted cells, dynamically forming new connections among themselves and with other organs. The nervous system is in a constant state of flux. This is called neural plasticity.
The brain receives and processes ongoing massive incoming information from the body, and generates constant outgoing information to organ systems such as muscles and glands, and to its own cognitive systems that may or may not recruit the dimension of awareness.
DreamOn signals provide a source of incoming information that the brain processes in a unique way because they are repetitive and are specially paced to achieve rhythmicity and resonance. Once turned on, DreamOn provides signals that are first picked up by skin, muscle, and joint receptors in the fingers and hand, or, if so chosen, anywhere on the body. Many types of skin receptors pick up DreamOn signals.
The anatomy and physiology of sensory mechanoreceptors.
DreamOn, apposed to the skin surface, stimulates the sensory organs of the peripheral nervous system. The skin generates a copious flow of information, forwarding it to the spinal cord and then to the central nervous system for quasi- instantaneous processing and response. Sensing the shape, temperature, and motion of movements requires skin sensors that quickly translate mechanical energy in the environment into electro-chemical signals.
Skin sensors are micro-organs that inform on texture, pressure, impact, heat, cold and vibration. Beyond the skin itself, in deeper connective tissues of muscles, tendons and joints, other micro-organs (e.g., spindles) also convey neurological information on body position and motion.
Several types of sensors found in the human skin and in deeper tissues provide a remarkable array of instantaneous information about many of the environment’s variegated features, among them:
Pacinian corpuscules, found in the dermis, are large by sensor standards and visible to the naked eye. Histologically, they appear as onion-configured concentric lamellae of connective tissue housing unmyelinated nerve roots. The friction of rubbing a finger on a textured object will induce vibratory stimuli registered by Pacinian corpuscules. Their fast adaptation makes them ideal for registering transient touch. Endowed with a large receptive field on the skin surface, they are sensitive to a range of vibrations of 15 to 400 Hz, with an optimal response at approximately 250 Hz.
Meissner’s corpuscules are encapsulated dermal skin sensors endowed with unmyelinated nerve roots whose adaptive capacities make them optimally responsive to signals 50 Hz and below.
Merkel’s discs respond to minuscule distortions of tissues. Uncapsulated, unmyelinated and extremely sensitive, they are capable of kind of tactile high resolutions needed in Braille. Their optimal vibrational responsiveness ranges between 5 and 15 Hz.
Krause’s bulbs are minute cylindrical bodies found in superficial skin layers and mucosal tissues. They respond to cold and to low frequency stimuli.
Ruffini cylinders are capsulated spindle-shaped receptors found in deeper skin layers. Heat and low frequency vibrations stimulate them.
Free nerve endings are unmyelinated neurons abundantly found in the epidermis that transmit signals eventually interpreted as pressure.
The speed of nerve transmission from skin sensors to the spinal cord, and eventually to the brain, depends on the diameter of conducting nerve fibers and on the degree to which they are sheathed in myelin, an insulating complex lipid. The highly myelinated “A” fibers are large neuronal cables with conduction velocities of 70 to 120 meters/second. They carry sensation of proprioception, touch and pressure. C fibers, on the other hand, thin and unmyelinated, have conduction velocities approximating 1 meter/second. They carry pain sensations.
DreamOn tactile signals, even at their lowest settings are capable of engaging all the above receptors.
DreamOn signals arrive in the brain
Sensory fibers conveying messages from skin sensors converge to the dorsal columns of the spinal cord, then ascend to the medulla oblongata, on to the pons, the midbrain, and finally the thalamus, a central hub. There, raw sensations begin to gain conscious perception. Thalamic projections forward this data to the post-central gyrus of the brain’s cortex, where subtleties of sensations are perceived. This is where a fabric’s texture, the shape of objects and the details of Braille are appreciated.
From this primary touch reception area of the brain exits an outflow to other areas of the brain. Touching an apple, eyes closed, can elicit a colorful visual image of the apple, as touching a musical instrument, in the mind’s eye, can bring out its imagined music. This capacity for association of the senses is called synesthesia. Using one’s imagination, DreamOn signals can thus morph into perceptions that have personalized qualities.
Because the DreamOn signals are repetitive, they are rapidly perceived by the brain as a cadence. Rhythm in music is a central component that imparts it its inviting, seductive or even entrancing qualities. The sense of rhythm is perceived because this cadence spreads to vast populations of neurons that begin to fire in unison. This phenomenon invokes the neuronal principles of synchronicity and resonance, where large populations networks have a natural tendency to flow together.
The post-central gyrus also talks back to the thalamus. The thalamus is a brain central station, a complex information processing center containing over fifty specialized nuclei connected to such functions as motor outflow, visual and auditory processing, and emotional expression. The thalamus is also directly connected to the pineal gland, generator of sleep-inducing melatonin, and to the hypothalamus, which determines many vegetative functions such as hormone regulation (thyroid, adrenal, growth, sex hormones), thirst, appetite and temperature control and, importantly, sleep.
Connections proceed ever further to many nuclei initiating and modulating sleep, including the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a regulator of circadian rhythms.
Sleep is observed in all mammals and its benefits are numerous. Normal sleep patterns result in feelings of well-being with little or no daytime sleepiness. Proven benefits include bolstered energy reserves, activated immune functions, increased growth hormone production, enhanced wound healing, memory consolidation, maturation of the cortex in adolescence, and improved cognitive performance, among others.
The sleep centers DreamOn targets are generators of Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). They are located in the thalamus and peri-thalamic nuclei, but eventually also involve the entire cortex. Slow brain waves are associated with a resting brain, with low metabolic rates for body and brain, and with a paucity of dreams. Blood pressure is relaxed and pulse rate is low. This is the stage responsible for the fullest restoration of life forces.
Physiological principles of the ULF device.
The physiological principles underlying DreamOn’s mode of action include entrainment, coaxing, pacing, synchronicity and resonance.
DreamOn calls mainly on the principle of entrainment for modulating brain processes. Using this concept for slowing the frequency of brain waves, for example, a stimulus frequency is applied corresponding to a desired brain wave frequency. If a subject’s brainwaves were currently measured at 10 Hz and the goal was to lower them to 5 Hz, the subject would be presented with a 5 Hz stimulus frequency and, via entrainment, there would be, in time, an correspondence of stimulus to brain wave.
In addition to entrainment, the present invention makes use of another physiological mechanism that can be called “coaxing.” In this phenomenon, a stimulus may be presented with a lower frequency than the desired physiological response, so that the said desired response is attained more quickly.
Pacing is a third mechanism. In pacing, the property of rhythmic presentation of the stimulus is invoked. The pacing of the stimuli is such that, with ongoing repetition, increasing numbers of neuronal networks join in tandem firing, thus providing for a stronger stimulus force.
Synchronicity and resonance are invoked, as phenomena that, in addition to pacing, invite an ever-greater population of brain neurons to respond in unison.
DreamOn delivers ultra-low tactile frequencies that invite brainwaves to progressively relax their fast pace so that they may enter territories associated with Slow Wave Sleep (SWS).
Via brain mechanisms of entrainment, pacing, synchronicity, resonance and coaxing, DreamOn assists in guiding the nervous system to assume brain rhythms that are associated with relaxation, stress dissolution, and eventually, slumber and sleep. SWS, the most coveted sleep rhythms after an active day, make for the restoration of energy reserves that contribute to alertness and positive daytime moods.
One interesting theory of sleep posits that it is during SWS that nervous system toxins cumulated during the day are most efficiently eliminated.
DreamOn’s effectiveness is enhanced by techniques of concentration and visualization. By directing gentle mindful attention to the experience of DreamOn’s signals, more of the brain’s neurons are recruited. Indeed, awareness kindles DreamOn’s capacities. With DreamOn’s repeated use, its signals come to be established as conditioned reflexes that, with each experience, automatically yield their desired effects.
References and Suggested Readings
The following references are rich sources of information on the brain, the nervous system, the electroencephalogram (EEG), and how sleep architecture may be improved with techniques such as entrainment.
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Gérard V. Sunnen M.D.
Board Certified in Psychiatry and Neurology.
(Ret.) Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry,
Bellevue-NYU Medical Center, New York
200 East 33rd St.
New York, NY 10016-4831