If you’re an athlete, it’s a no-brainer (get it?) that the key to improving athletic performance is training. Typically we understand athletic training as a physical routine that involves strengthening and coordinating relevant muscles in order to achieve a desired result. However, physical training is only part of the story. In fact, one of the most important areas to train isn’t a muscle at all. It’s the brain.
So how does the brain improve athletic performance? The brain provides what is known as neural drive to the body. This is the electrical signal sent from the brain to the muscular system, which activates muscle fibers that are responsible for generating power. When an athlete trains, neural drive from the brain is strengthened, which increases the number of muscle fibers activated- also known as improved motor unit recruitment.
When motor unit recruitment increases due to a stronger electrical signal, the result is larger gains in strength, explosiveness, and dexterity. In addition, a better-timed electrical signal causes more adaptive coordination of motor units, which means improvements in precision, fine motor control, and hand-eye coordination.
Body Over Brain
Despite the brain’s strong influence over motor performance, technology relating to athletic training has primarily focused on enhancing athletic performance peripherally rather than strengthening motor unit recruitment — which makes sense. The brain is extremely complex and very difficult to study.
Scientists have been working for decades to understand exactly how the brain interacts with the muscular system and how these interactions could potentially be enhanced with technology. It’s a lot easier to build a machine that will strengthen the body physically than to build a device that involves changing the wiring of the brain and nervous system. However, since muscles would not even be able to contract without an electrical signal driving motor units, it’s clear that a brain-training technology would be an extremely valuable tool to enhance athletic performance. Nevertheless, simply sitting and wearing a device that increases neural drive will have absolutely no effect on athletic performance. Why?
Muscles must be active in order for neural drive to be strengthened, which means that the body and the brain must be trained simultaneously.
Neuropriming as a Solution
So, training the brain is tough. But is it possible? At Halo Neuroscience, we’re doing just that. Our first product — Halo Sport — is a headset that uses pulses of energy to improve the brain’s response to training. When paired with athletic training, Halo Sport causes stronger, more direct connections to be formed between neurons and muscles, i.e. strengthened neural drive. We refer to this mechanism as Neuropriming. Similar to the way a pre-workout meal fuels the body, Halo Sport primes the brain to power the most effective workout.
When motor units are strengthened and coordinated more precisely via Neuropriming, there are an infinite number of possibilities in terms of how motor performance can be improved, whether throwing a football to greater lengths, or recognizing a baseball pitch with greater speed. However, recruiting more muscle fibers is only part of the magic of Halo Sport.
Neuropriming also improves the brain’s natural processes for learning and retaining information, which means that the gains made with Halo Sport will be maintained long after a Neuropriming session. We refer to this mechanism as hyperplasticity. Sounds complex and it is. We’ll go more in depth into this next week. For now, we’ll leave you with this: at Halo, we believe neuroscience and athletic training are inherently intertwined. We also believe that the Neuropriming technology of Halo Sport can allow athletes to unlock hidden potential and accelerate athletic gains in unprecedented ways.
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Learn about the results athletes are getting here.
Next in the The Athlete’s Guide to the Brain: Hyperplasticity.
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