Valley psychologist creates wearable tech to reduce anxiety, stress
By Alexa Armes, Cronkite News | Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017
PEORIA – Paradise Valley neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin believes she’s found a new way to help people deal with stress and anxiety.
Serin created a small device named Buzzies that you can wear on your wrists or in your pockets. Buzzies send signals to the brain and these signals help change the way information is processed, she said.
She uses something called bilateral alternating stimulation delivered tactile treatment, otherwise known as BLAST.
“This is a technology that has been used in certain types of treatments in the last few decades,” she said. “What I did that was new, was improve some of the technology, the waveform, the delivery method to give access to people outside of doctor’s offices.”
BLAST inhibits stress responses and enhances memory recognition. This treatment is especially helpful for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress and anxiety and sleeping disorders, she said.
“Our ultimate goal with Buzzies is to change group dynamics and create global change,” Serin said. “When people are self regulating, when people aren’t stressed out, they perform better. They make better decisions. They sleep better. Their overall health is better.”
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illness in the U.S. According the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 18 percent of the population is affected.
Peoria residents Jennifer Childress and her two daughters Caitlin, 10, and Cora, 8, have been searching for a solution to help ease daily stresses.
“The biggest challenge that both my daughters face is anxiety,” Childress said.
The family has tired treatments such as neurofeedback and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, but they said Buzzies has made an improvement in their daily life.
“The (other) therapies help, but there’s always the day-to-day crisis moments where you need that help,” Childress said.
Caitlin said Buzzies help her stay on track and provides a calming sensation.
“Most of the time, I’m just kind of worried about everyday homework, what’s going to happen tomorrow, how kids are going to react to something and just kinda worked up over nothing,” Caitlin said.
The product has only been on the market since December, and it does have its skeptics.
On Reddit, a popular message board, one user asked whether anybody had used the device. Other users voiced concerns: “Looking at their website, it looks like a load of snake oil. There are some papers on the site, but they don’t appear to be published by any peer reviewed journal.”
Melissa DiGianfilippo, a spokeswoman for the company, said they are pursuing peer review, but it takes about two years. She added that the company has collaborated with universities to conduct more research.
The product does appear to have early support. Its Kickstarter campaign started with a goal of $15,000, but it has raised more than $76,000.
Since its debut, Serin has made some improvements. She made them quieter, enabled them to work with Bluetooth technology and designed them so they can be controlled through a phone application.
Serin said she’s also given scholarships to people who can’t afford the device and will continue to do so.
Buzzies cost $239 on its website. More than 2,000 units have been sold.