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I tried Halo Sport to see if neurostimulation could help mine

Every cyclist has a lead increase that you've made so many times that you can track the ups and downs of your fitness level based on the breath sounds of the last turn. For me it is the tunnel road. The gateway to the rocky hills that overlook Berkeley and Oakland is three miles of eucalyptus-lined S-curves with a mild but unyielding degree.

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The first 50 or more times I climbed after the recording When cycling three years ago, I was able to draw personal records at will, as my VO2 max and my technique improved in tandem. Since then not so much. After driving my PR from 1

4:06 a year ago, I was confident that a time under 2pm – maybe even before 1pm – was a matter of time. Getting faster with 41 is no longer a matter of course. Despite my weekly efforts, I have not had to break even 15 minutes since

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My ears grew louder when I heard the allegations of a company called Halo Neuroscience stating that the use of the Brain Zapping Headsets Can Help Athletes 20 Minutes Before Training or Training Increases strength, skill, and endurance significantly faster than you yourself. Halo Sport ($ 399; haloneuro.com) is one of several consumer devices that is the science of Apply Transcranial DC Stimulation (TDCS) and the only device made specifically for athletes who can wear it during warm-up to boost subsequent workouts. [19659008] Based on researches originally conducted by the US military to look for ways Seeking to improve special operations of sniper and fighter pilots in their work, it is already at the highest level of athletics set, even by teams of the NFL. the NBA and Major League Baseball and U. S. Olympians. Andrew Talansky, a former professional cyclist on Cannondale-Drapac's elite team, said he was "neuropriming" with Halo before his training accelerated the transition when he switched to triathlons earlier this year, even though he barely had a stroke for 15 years. "It helped me substantially speed up the process," he says.

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Halo is the spiritual child of Dr. Ing. Daniel Chao, a San Francisco doctor and neuroscientist, and Brett Wingeier, Ph. D., a biomedical engineer. In the early 2000s, they helped develop the NeuroPace RNA System, a brain implant that uses electrical current pulses to stop epileptic seizures before they start. The niche success of the RNA system, which has now been implanted in some 1,300 patients, made her think that a brain stimulation device that does not require open skull surgery could address a broader market. (Imagine that.) In research, they discovered a large body of data indicating that low current through the motor cortex of the brain, which controls voluntary muscle contractions, affects the neuronal response to subsequent stimuli. "It puts the brain in a more excitable state that increases the likelihood of two neurons firing synchronously," Dr. Chao. "That's good, because it creates a new circuit. There is a saying: neurons wired together. "Halo's word for this excitable brain state is" hyperplasticity, "the term for increased neuroplasticity.

For athletes, hyperplasticity in practice means training great reductions, and dozens of studies have documented the effects of tDCS on acquiring new abilities, from playing guitar over solving mathematical jigsaw puzzles to ski jumping, many of which were overseen by Andy McKinley, Ph.D., head of the Cognitive Performance Optimization Department of the US Air Force's Department of Applied Neuroscience. "Obviously, the military is interested in the time and to reduce the money required to train someone at the expert level, "says McKinley In his group's attempts, the tDCS reduced the time required to master tasks such as detecting targets on a simulated radar screen reach 25 percent. "It takes less days, and so on I can do the same, "he says. In his own studies, Halo has documented a 50 percent increase in motor learning for tasks such as playing novel piano chords and throwing darts.

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This is of course very cool. But I did not want to master Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 or melee. I just wanted to go faster by bike. Could tDCS help me with that?

In any case, Dr. Chao. That's because speed is not a simple function of fitness. "Endurance is all about biomechanical efficiency," he says. "There's a capacity for efficiency." If you're running, swimming, or cycling, a bit of energy waste at each step or stroke can add extra seconds and minutes to the end time. But optimizing your form in these sports is hard because they repeat so often. "They're trying to unlearn this pattern of movement, which is anchored in your brain for literally a million repetitions," Dr. Chao.

As the brain temporarily becomes more neuroplastic, tDCS can facilitate the transformation of these deeply grooved patterns of movement. "I think it's like loosening my motor cortex so I can reprogram myself," Dr. Chao (who, so to speak, is not just a scientist and an inventor, but also a damn strong cyclist). That's exactly the advantage that Talansky has found. As a middle school swimmer, he had just enough experience to persist bad habits – especially one arm that swung too far while the other crossed the midline. As a relative junior driver of the Ironman at the age of 29, he did not want to waste any time. "It allowed me to swim, I think, much better than most people without a heavy swim, after basically swimming for eight months," he says.

There is also strong data showing that tDCS improves brain endurance. In his studies for the Air Force, McKinley has gone deep into his effects on cognitive fatigue and examined the ability of subjects to maintain their attention during actual tasks, such as image sorting with and without brain stimulation. Subjects in the control group usually lose focus quickly after 20 minutes. "What we find when we add stimulation is that the decline is eliminated for about six hours," says McKinley. 6 hours!

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I had heard everything I needed to hear to try neurostimulation – except for one thing. Is it safe? At a time when health experts warn that your iPhone's blue light might disturb your sleep and Facebook might contribute to depression, the idea of ​​a new tech product that targets brain structures sounds a bit daunting. While some experts have warned that tDCS was not long enough to detect potential long-term effects or inadvertently amplify unwanted circuitry such as bad habits or traumatic memories, the most comprehensive reviews from past studies have found this to be correct. "The safety record of tDCS is exceptional," McKinley assures me.

Relieved, I asked Dr. Chao for help in designing a less scientific clinical trial that allowed me to snatch this elusive tunnel road at 2:00 pm. He first lent me a Halo Sport unit that looks like a normal set of can headphones. Beneath the band that connects the pinna are three foam electrodes that nestle through the hair when wetted
and conduct electricity through the scalp into the brain.

Dr. Chao told me to wear the headset for 20 minutes while warming up and then to hyperplasticise in the next 60 minutes. It did not matter what kind of training I did, he explained, as long as it was repetitive and difficult. "You have to be aware of the movement," he says. He suggested one-legged pedal holes to refine smooth running and high output VO2-max intervals to help maintain the shape during fatigue. Since I'm not that much of an athlete at first – I spend about five to ten hours a week on the saddle – I probably saw quick results, unlike a pro like Talansky, who is already working near his potential. "We can often get more dramatic results from novices because they're on this really fun, clunky part of the learning curve," says Dr. Chao.

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One last thing: "There is almost no one who likes the feeling," he says. "I just warn you about it."

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<p class= When I first Halo for When I put on my first workout, I understood what he meant: even at full intensity, the current does not hurt, but he tingles mildly uncomfortable, like the feeling of wearing a too long ski cap, and the headset is heavy too – good when you're sitting on my peloton bike for 20 minutes, but too cumbersome for a more active workout.

As a beginner in kicking drills, I quickly realized Dr. Chaos's point that efficiency is a trainable ability to isolate each side, I could suddenly feel how I had pressed my pedal directly down than mine Blow to round. At my second session I could already feel myself stepping in gentler circles and my legs no longer fighting each other. During the intervals, I was able to pedal at a higher cadence than normal – about 100rpm compared to my usual 80.

After four neuroprimed workouts, I felt ready for a test. With the Halo I warmed up for my tunnel test and drove 14: 07 – one second behind my PR. A promising start. My second attempt, when the brain was juiced again but the legs were still tired, was a bust. Everything felt good on my third try. In the steep middle section, I remembered concentrating on a gentle stroke rather than simply raking it out as usual. As I sprinted past the end of the segment, my bike computer beeped: 13:58. Success!

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Was it the halo that exaggerated me? Since I'm only 0.2 percent better than my goal, I have to remember that every bit counts, except for my freshly shaved legs. On the other hand, the biggest difference was certainly a proper, focused warm-up (something I usually skip over) and focus on my form, even when things got tough. I needed Neuropriming as a motivation to do these things, but I could have done it without it. More than anything, my experiment helped me to see how much more low-hanging fruit I had to choose before embarking on a performance enhancement with novel technology. But it's nice to know that when I'm on the flat side of the learning curve, I have no options left.

4 Other Things TDCS Can Help You:

Drive Safer [19659035] When you spend many hours at the wheel, tDCS can help you focus on the road better than coffee. Its effects last longer and there is no disappointment when they subside.

Learn to play a new song.
If fine motor skills are required, eg. As guitar or piano, you can probably reduce your practice time by Neuropriming. Halo Sport has different settings, depending on which hand you use more often.

Be more specific.
The shooting of snipers was a major reason for the military's early interest in tDCS. In some of his research, Halo employs Aim Hero, a target practice program that video gamers use to enhance their first-person shooter skills.

Increase Your Single Rep Max a difference between the power potential of a muscle and the force you can generate when you contract it. Neuro-priming helps your brain deliver better muscle performance. Dr. Chao compares the effect with a spotter, which helps you lift a heavier bar for the first time.