Dan Cohen, MD
Chairman and CEO
Our Past, Present and Future
I became a Neurologist due to my fascination with the brain and mind that began when I was 15 years old. Certification to practice Neurology in the US is governed by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Although I was interested in both fields, I decided on Neurology. However, I never intended to practice as a physician, despite becoming a Neurologist.
The same year I became board-certified to practice Neurology, I co-founded a company (CNS, Inc.). By 1985 we had our first product approved by the FDA – a brainwave monitor to help prevent strokes during high risk surgeries. It was the 1st computerized brainwave monitor with automatic warnings and it worked beautifully. It was a total failure as a business.
Fortunately, the product had sufficient computing power, which allowed us to develop a second product, able to record and automatically analyze all of the data that is captured in a sleep study. We entered the professional sleep market in the mid-1980’s. There were only about 300 sleep labs in the US at that time. Now there are 4,700. We developed a nice capital equipment, medical business.
A few years later I started to become familiar with the consumer-packaged goods markets after licensing what my Board of Directors called a nose band-aid. They did not like the idea, but they were pleased to see that the Breathe Right® nasal strip did quite well. We later added FiberChoice® chewable tablets to our growing number of consumer products.
Back to the Brain and Mind
My exposure to consumer goods was a great learning experience, but I had drifted far from my original interest in the brain and mind. In 1996, we founded Round River Research, Corp. now known as SOLTEC Health. We called it Round River because we knew the path to develop a revolutionary product in this arena would be circular and repetitive, akin to navigating a round river. We were right. It took decades, not years to accomplish what we set out to do.
In medical school I was taught that stress and stress-related illnesses account for 75% to 90% of disease and medical costs. This problem starts in the mind, impacting the brain and entire body, throughout the day and night. Stress negatively impacts sleep and poor sleep leads to more stress. We recognized that we needed to develop a non-invasive technology that could affect both sleep and stress in order to truly promote healing.
The Associations of Stress and Sleep
It took us many years to learn that to lessen stress and improve sleep, we needed to address the deepest, most primitive part of our animal brain, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is composed of two divisions, the Sympathetic (fight or flight) and the Parasympathetic (rest and rejuvenate). In our stressful, modern-day world, the Sympathetic division has become over-active and the Parasympathetic division has become underactive.
In terms of stress, the primary function of the brain is to ensure survival of the animal or human. Consciously and subconsciously, we constantly scan our environment for possible danger. If danger is perceived the Sympathetic division kicks in and we must decide to fight or flee. Unfortunately, if we experience threat on a frequent basis or if in general we have a fearful nature, our Sympathetic division is on chronic overdrive. This causes us to be hyperalert and over time, stressed-out, depleted and predisposed to many diseases.
These days, learning to activate the Parasympathetic division of the ANS, so that we can rest and rejuvenate, takes effort. It often requires finding a get-a-way or situation and a means (relaxation exercises or meditation) to let down and not be hyper-vigilant. We are taught that we must practice this way of being in order to reduce the effects that our fear-producing thoughts have on us. Furthermore, it is difficult to relax in the face of hardship and these days, there is no lack of stress-inducing hardship.
In terms of sleep, I did not realize the bias I had developed becoming a Neurologist and working with sleep labs. I had become so focused on the brain, specifically our large cerebral hemispheres that create brainwaves, that I had begun to think that sleep is primarily a function of only that aspect of the nervous system. I had totally forgotten that reptiles exhibit sleep and the reptilian brain is extremely primitive. It does not include cerebral hemispheres, but it does contain the ANS. Of note, reptiles have been scientifically documented to have slow wave sleep (delta sleep) and dream (REM – rapid eye movement) sleep, even without any cerebral hemispheres. These are the 2 most important stages of sleep, as shown by sleep deprivation studies and they do not require a thinking brain.
When humans are sleep deprived, the stage of sleep that returns in the greatest abundance is delta sleep. This demonstrates that it is the most important and necessary stage of sleep for health and well-being, followed by REM sleep. Both delta and REM sleep originate in the ANS. In humans, it has been scientifically shown that the ANS activity producing delta and REM sleep, precedes the changes in the cerebrum by about 5 minutes. The remainder of sleep (light sleep) is mainly a transitional stage between delta and REM.
Okay, so why the lesson on stress and sleep? When awake, stress activates the Sympathetic division of the ANS, and while the Parasympathetic division is active, rest and rejuvenation (healing) results. We also need sleep to restore ourselves and heal. During sleep, the stage which is most restorative is slow wave or delta sleep, our deepest level of sleep. Studies demonstrate that the pacemaker of delta sleep is the Parasympathetic division of the ANS. So, during both stress reduction during wake and delta sleep, at night when asleep, the Parasympathetic division of the ANS is most active and in both cases, the Sympathetic division of the ANS is least active.
Furthermore, it is during delta sleep that growth hormone is secreted. Growth hormone plays a vital role in cell regeneration, growth and maintaining healthy human tissue, including that of the brain and various vital organs. Also, of great significance, as we age, there is a dramatic reduction in delta sleep. It is no wonder that as we age, we lose our ability to heal. If we disrupt our delta sleep when we are younger, we can suffer the same consequences.
The bottom line: natural healing during wake and sleep requires a reduction in activity of the Sympathetic division of the ANS and a corresponding increase in Parasympathetic activity!
The reptilian brain first evolved on Earth approximately 300 million years ago. Nervous tissue is both electrochemical and electromagnetic. It is logical to assume that the development of this type of tissue would be responsive to its’ local environment, including that of the Earth. The Earth, with its’ spinning core, produces a fluctuating magnetic field, which would certainly play a role in the development of nervous tissue. Unlike man-made electronics that function at higher frequencies, the Earth’s magnetic field pulses at extremely low frequencies. These are the same frequencies that the brain and ANS function at.
We recognized that a large part of our work needed to be directed at increasing Parasympathetic activity of the ANS. Fortunately for us, a fair bit of research had been compiled on frequency-based heart rate variability, which nicely demonstrates the level of Parasympathetic activity that is occurring in the human ANS. Our job was to figure out how best to cultivate one’s local environment to facilitate more of that activity.
We experimented with several types of stimuli including sound, vibration, and electromagnetism. Sound and vibration worked extremely well at habituating the nervous system in general but could not be used during sleep for obvious reasons. We also discovered that at the extremely low frequencies we needed to employ, we could not use electromagnetism, as the equipment would overheat. Further experimentation revealed that magnetism alone was ideal. However, it took a fair bit of engineering to construct the necessary device capable of producing the desired frequencies in the combinations that are required.
We also learned the downside of our large human cerebral hemispheres. Although they are wonderful at providing our enhanced mental capabilities, all of that thought, when turned to worry, self-criticism, and the deployment of our defense mechanisms, leads to stress with its’ increased Sympathetic activity. This is the exact opposite of what we needed to accomplish.
To increase Parasympathetic and decrease Sympathetic activity, we needed to create a local environment that facilitated greater activity of the Parasympathetic division of the ANS and slower activity of the cerebral hemispheres, so all those negative thoughts and coping strategies do not stimulate the Sympathetic division of the ANS. Those efforts resulted in the creation of the Z•GEN™ Magnetic Conditioner.
What also became obvious was the need to track the status of the ANS in real-time, while conditioning the subject’s local environment. After all, during sleep, one experiences sleep cycles and each of those sleep cycles consists of different sleep stages, varying in depth and duration over time. In order to properly condition the user’s local environment in real-time, as needed for each stage of sleep, it is necessary to know exactly what stage of sleep they are in at every moment.
Fortunately, I had spent 10 years developing equipment for the field of sleep disorders medicine, so developing a sleep tracker was familiar territory. We took it upon ourselves to develop a functional, near equivalent of a sleep lab, worn on one’s wrist – the Z•TRACK™ Analyst. This device measures and records frequency-based pulse rate variability, motion, snoring sounds, and blood oxygen saturation. Most importantly, it analyzes these signals in real-time, allowing for an immediate sleep stage determination. With this information, in addition to the user’s historical information stored in our database, the Z•TRACK Analyst can instruct the Z•GEN Magnetic Conditioner, exactly how to change the user’s local environment to facilitate the desired effects.
This same system can be used during the day to reduce stress. In the future, with further development, clinical studies, and FDA clearances, it may also be used to treat specific illnesses.
We very much look forward to serving you now with our exciting new technology to reduce stress and enhance your sleep and in the future, as we explore all that this new technology can accomplish.