“Athletes are generally willing to entertain any scientific-sounding trend that promises an edge. For reference: Michael Phelps and cupping or Shaquille O’Neal’s energy-enhancing bracelets.
Which is probably why Equinox jumped at the chance to offer Halo Neuroscience’s brain-zapping, supposedly performance-enhancing headsets as part of its advanced personal training program at 22 of its fitness clubs around the U.S., beginning this month.
Halo’s headsets employ a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. The idea is to apply a mild electrical current to the brain, resulting, in this case, in improvements in an athlete’s physical prowess…Now, with the Equinox partnership, Halo is bringing its $749 brain-zapping headset to the masses…While many studies do support the idea that tCDS can have genuine effects on the brain, the science is still divided on whether Halo’s product could really work the way the company claims…
A review of research on tDCS and exercise performance from last year, for example, looked at 12 studies on endurance and found that only eight had positive results. Among the studies that monitored people while they were actually exercising, those results were even lower…But even if it does work to improve athletic performance—which it very well might—there are still a whole lot of questions to answer. For how long will the effects last? Does it work better for some kinds of sports than others? Is it as effective as other performance-enhancing methods, like say, simply changing up practice routines or diet?”
The Review Study:
The Ergogenic Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Exercise Performance (Frontiers in Physiology). From the abstract:
The physical limits of the human performance have been the object of study for a considerable time. Most of the research has focused on the locomotor muscles, lungs, and heart. As a consequence, much of the contemporary literature has ignored the importance of the brain in the regulation of exercise performance. With the introduction and development of new non-invasive devices, the knowledge regarding the behavior of the central nervous system during exercise has advanced…there has been emerging literature demonstrating the possibility to influence exercise outcomes in healthy people following stimulation of specific brain areas. Specifically, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been recently used prior to exercise in order to improve exercise performance under a wide range of exercise types. In this review article, we discuss the evidence provided from experimental studies involving tDCS. The aim of this review is to provide a critical analysis of the experimental studies investigating the application of tDCS prior to exercise and how it influences brain function and performance. Finally, we provide a critical opinion of the usage of tDCS for exercise enhancement. This will consequently progress the current knowledge base regarding the effect of tDCS on exercise and provides both a methodological and theoretical foundation on which future research can be based.
News in Context:
Research trend: Combining brain stimulation with cognitive training to enhance attention and memory
Solving the Brain Fitness Puzzle Is the Key to Self-Empowered Aging
Important insights on the growing home use of tDCS brain stimulation: older-than-expected users, positive self-reported results for treatment of depression but negative for self-enhancement, and a couple areas of concern (severe burns, frequency)
Five reasons the future of brain enhancement is digital, pervasive and (hopefully) bright
2018 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Investing in Brain Health for All (December 4–6th)
Session on the future of brain health, brain training and tDCS at the 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit:
Read more about this at sharpbrains.com.