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How a vibrating bracelet can soothe the mind

How a vibrating bracelet can soothe the mind

The Doppel uses physical signals to trick our brain into a state of calm

The Doppel uses physical signals to trick our brain into a state of calm

Kathryn Nave | February/March 2020

If you’ve ever heard “Eye of the Tiger” blasting at the gym, or “Chilled Vibes Vol. 3” while floating around a spa, then you’ll know all about the motivating or calming power of music. But this may be less to do with empowering lyrics or soothing strings than a simple matter of rhythm. So why not cut the chords and get straight to the beat? The Doppel, a bracelet created by Team Turquoise, a London-based startup, vibrates on your wrist at a tempo designed either to relax or to energise. It looks like a small wristwatch and works in those situations in which music would be either antisocial or distracting.

The theory behind the Doppel traces back to the still-influential account of emotions developed independently by both William James, a philosopher, and Carl Lange, a physician, in the mid-1880s. This proposes that emotions are a response to physiological and behavioural signals, rather than their cause. Change the signal and you change the emotion.

The Doppel acts as a fake pulse to trick our brain into believing that our body is calm. In a study published in Scientific Reports, a journal, two groups of Doppel wearers were asked to prepare a public speech – a common cause of stress that psychology researchers often use. Both groups were told that the device merely measured blood pressure. But the Doppel was activated only for one group. The study found that signs of stress were reduced in this cohort.

Another study tested whether faster rhythms improved focus. Participants were asked to press a button within half a second of a light flashing on a screen. The group wearing a Doppel vibrating at 100-120bpm made far fewer mistakes than those wearing an inactive device. A fake heartbeat could help you keep your finger on the pulse.