If you were to walk into our headquarters here in Colorado Springs over the last couple months you’d likely run into one of our coaches walking around with a sleek pair of headphones before heading out for their workout. While they might be listening to music to get pumped up for their intervals, that’s not the primary purpose of these headphones. On the top band of the headphones, soft foam primers are delivering a gentle electric current to our coaches’ motor cortex, “Neuropriming” them for their workout ahead.
Our newest partner, Halo Neuroscience, has used years of research and medical technology to develop Halo Sport, a device that utilizes transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) to induce a state of hyperplasticity in the motor cortex. During the course of a 20-minute Neuropriming session, which coincides nicely with a proper warm-up, Halo Sport delivers a safe and mild electrical stimulation that reduces the input necessary for neurons to fire and helps more neurons fire together putting your brain in a primed state that lasts for about an hour.
As an endurance athlete, why should you care about hyperplasticity? When your motor cortex is primed before your workouts, your brain is put into a state of hyperlearning where it can more rapidly strengthen neural connections and form new pathways. This translates into learning and refining movements quicker, firing muscles more efficiently, and even reducing the fatigue you experience.
Trying to improve your pedal stroke or develop more efficient running mechanics? Precise motor skills like these rely heavily on the brain to fire muscles in a highly coordinated manner. Using Halo Sport to Neuroprime ahead of skill drills can help you refine these movements quicker by fine-tuning your neural connections and firing patterns. Executing precise movements while running or cycling means less wasted energy and an increase in endurance performance.
One of the most exciting benefits of Halo Sport is its potential to increase performance by staving off central fatigue. In very basic terms, endurance athletes train to combat two main forms of fatigue: peripheral and central. Peripheral fatigue is a decrease in your muscle’s ability to continue performing work and is what we traditionally target in endurance training. However, central fatigue is a weakening of the signal from the brain to the muscles over the course of a workout. While our brains learn to fend off central fatigue naturally through training, tCDS seems to have unlocked another way to decrease central fatigue than physical training alone.
Neurostimulation has been shown to increase excitatory signals and decrease inhibitory signals enabling athletes to push their perceived exertion closer to their actual maximum exertion. Research from Brazilian neuroscientists found that tCDS over the motor cortex enhanced performance significantly in a cycling time-to-exhaustion test.1 Studies like these and others have shown tCDS to be an effective means of increasing endurance by sending stronger signals from the brain to the muscles.2
While the benefits of Neuropriming are exciting, it’s important to keep in mind you can’t throw on the sleek Halo Sport headphones and just sit on your couch listening to music and expect to see results. You still have to get out and train! If you’re not firing the neurons for the movements you’re trying to refine, you’re not going to strengthen your neural connections and build new pathways. And just as with endurance training, you’ll see the greatest benefit from focused efforts and consistency.
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