[8:13] About Dr. Daniel Chao
[10:08] What is tDCS?
[10:40] The Cortex and What Does It Do
[18:34] What is Happening During the “neuropriming” Session on a Physiological Level
[22:07] When Shocking Your Brain Can Actually Be Safe
[27:30 & 30:00] Whether Something Like This Can Be Used For General Cognitive Performance Such as Language Learning or Focus
[32:25] How to Use tDCS Stimulation For Video Gaming and Playing Instruments
[35:19] Blue Apron
[36:59] Casper Mattress
[39:59] How is Halo Different Than ‘do it yourself’ tDCS on Reddit Forums
[45:25] The Pro Athletes Currently Using the Halo and What They Have Reported For Results
[53:20] Whether or Not This Type of Brain Training is Considered Neurodoping by the World Anti-Doping Association
[59:50] What Happens if You Wear Headgear Is Too Far Forward or Too Far Back
[1:10:54] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey. What’s up it’s Ben Greenfield. If you’re a fan of strapping odd things to your head to make yourself be able to do things like learn music faster or acquire skills more efficiently, you’re going to dig today’s episode,but before we delve into today’s episode, speaking of doing things more efficiently, I’m all about shoving as much coffee into my body as efficiently as possible, and lately I’ve been mixing coffee with my coffee. Yeah, I did that. Green coffee beans with roasted coffee beans. So every morning, I make myself a nice big cup of coffee but I’ve actually been putting green coffee into my coffee. Green coffee is really interesting it’s actually super high in polyphenols and it helps to lower your blood sugar and it helps to lower insulin spikes and it has a lot of properties that regular coffee doesn’t have specifically in terms of its ability to enhance like polycyst or breakdown of fat cells. So I’ve been getting this stuff from Four Sigmatic foods. It’s called mushroom coffee with green coffee bean extract and I just dump a little bit of that into my regular cup of coffee in the morning. It also has chaga in it to lower the acidity and to give your immune system a boost and also my taki mushroom which also helps to regulate your blood sugar. And if you too want to dump coffee into your coffee or just have the green coffee all by itself, if you’re not wanting to have coffee on steroids like me, you can get a 15 percent discount on this stuff or really anything from Four Sigmatic foods. You just go to foursigmatic.com/greenfield, that’s foursigmatic.com/greenfield and the coupon code to use when you go to that website is Ben Greenfield. So that’s foursigmatic.com/greenfield and use coupon code Ben Greenfield.
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In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“So there’s a raw amount of electrical output that is related to your brain that is literally the battery for your muscles. So when you lift weights and you’re training to lift more and more weight, you are also training your brain. It’s not just about muscles.” “You know the way we do research is very different. We have people come into our lab and half of the people get real stimulation, the other half of the people get what we call sham stimulation. So it feels like the real thing but it actually doesn’t work.”
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield and last week I posted to Instagram this photo of me dripping with sweat in my gym, bragging about what I called, in that particular post, the most dangerous piece of workout equipment that I own. And it was not some kind of a heavy mace, or a unicycle, or a parachute, or some other kind of risky exercise device. It was just this simple piece of headgear. It looks like a nice set of Bose or Sony earphones but embedded in that headgear is this device that is now recognized by modern exercise science as one of the best ways to enhance things like skill acquisition or to decrease like how hard a workout feels so you can literally push yourself way harder than your brain would normally allow you to push. And it can even do some really interesting things in terms of like cognitive performance and you know there’s some research on language learning, and all sorts of super fascinating hacks that this type of headgear can be used for.
So it’s all based on the science of something called neuropriming. Neuropriming. You’re gonna learn a bit about that in today’s episode and that’s developed from about 15 years of research, and is basically the process of causing motor neurons to become more excitable before or during exercise, or athletic training, or skill acquisition to do things like increase your strength, and your skill, and your explosiveness, and your endurance, and I’ve been playing around with this thing. These headgear is called a Halo. The Halo Sport. I’ve been playing around with it for about a month using it prior to workouts primarily, and I’ve also used it prior to a few tennis lessons that I’ve taken and it is so, I mean, the way I like to think about it is there’s some stuff like fish oil that you can take that you kinda keep your fingers crossed is working because unless you overdose with it, which gives you explosive diarrhea, I can tell you that from personal experience unless you overdose with fish oil, you just kinda like keep your fingers crossed. It’s like decreasing triglycerides. You’re increasing HDL or decreasing inflammation.
Something like this, you actually notice a profound difference immediately like I’ll walk in and do a set of deadlifts after priming with this thing, and it literally feels like I’m ripping the weight off the ground nearly effortlessly. And I’ve let a couple of my friends who have come over and worked at my gym try it and they cannot believe that what this thing actually does especially in terms of allowing us to push way harder than we normally thought possible in the gym. And I honestly I don’t fully understand how it works. However, my guest on today’s podcast does because he is a neuro tech entrepreneur. He specializes in devices that improve brain performance and he is the co-founder of the company that developed this particular piece of headgear made by Halo Neuroscience and again it’s called a Halo Sport. So my guest is Dr. Daniel Chao and he was originally the head of business development in a company called Neuro Pace where he helped to develop really what was the world’s first responsive neuro stimulation system that was approved by the FDA for treating epilepsy. And before that he got his, both his MD, and also his master’s in Neuroscience from Stanford. So he’s a smart cookie. You also worked at, you were a consultant at McKinsey and Company, is that correct, Doctor Chao?
Daniel: Yeah. That was like my business school replacement.
Ben: Okay. Cool. I think another guest I’ve had in the show a couple times, Doctor Peter Attia. I think he was involved with McKinsey and also attended Stanford. Do you know Peter?
Daniel: A classmate of mine.
Ben: Oh really? No way.
Ben: That’s funny.
Daniel: He’s awesome.
Ben: Okay. Cool. Small world. That’s very cool. And by the way have you sent him one of these to try it all?
Daniel: I should. I haven’t talked to him in years, but yeah, I should reach out. Love that guy.
Ben: Yeah, you totally should. I mean the last experiment I was talking with Peter about was where he was sucking down a bunch of like liquid ketone esters that essentially tasted like rocket fuel to see how much harder he could push himself on a bicycle and so this would be, this would be right up his alley. I should connect you guys after the call and implant the seed. But anyway, so this piece of headgear. From what I understand and correct me if I’m wrong, Daniel, this is based on something called a tDCS which I think a lot of people might be familiar with. Is it not or am I mistaken?
Daniel: Yeah, that’s right. That’s sort of our tech stack.
Daniel: Yeah, tDCS is short for transcranial direct current stimulation. So basically, that word describes the use of creating an electric field on your scalp that is strong enough to get through your skull while gentle enough to interact with your cortext to neuro modulate.
Ben: Alright. So you threw out some terms I wanna clarify. So transcranial direct current simulation. You’re stimulating the cortex in your brain and what exactly, for people who might not be familiar with the cortex. What is the cortex? What does it do?
Daniel: Yeah, so the cortex is sort of the outer layers of your brain. It’s seen as a part of your brain that is more advanced versus deeper centers of your brain like the thalamus and the basal ganglia. Kind of like that reptilian brain versus the cortical centers of the human brain and primates or generally is really what makes us different from reptiles and birds.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So the cortex is what makes us different.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, in a nutshell. I mean grossly oversimplified, but yeah.
Ben: And why is that? What is it that the cortex does that these other parts that, because I know we have like the lizard brain and the deep brain or what some people call like the Labrador brain that responds subconsciously to things like stress or like the amygdala that will increase blood pressure, and heart rate, and cortisol production response to something that might present us with some kind of a risky scenario, but when it comes to the cortex, what exactly is that doing that these other deeper parts of the brain aren’t?
Daniel: Well you know, the deeper parts of the brain are creating, they’re controlling things like heart rate, like body temperature. You know, things that just happen reflexively without us thinking about doing it. Our breathing rate for example, our breathing rate just happens by itself when we sleep. Our heart rate just happens by itself. Gut motility is controlled by the brain and again, that just happens by itself. So, these sorts of deeper structures are just controlling things that are more automatic in life. Heard of higher processing centers are also called cortical or embedded in the cortex. And these are things like memory. It’s like cognitive control to control impulses. Like Ben, you probably want to eat more than you do. Why don’t you eat more? It’s your cortex that tells you, “No, you can’t eat. You can’t snack right now.”
Ben: That something that I’m able to consciously control with the cortex.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now this tDCS, this works on the motor cortex, is that correct?
Daniel: Yeah and that’s specific to Halo Sport. So just taking a step back, there’s this special part of the cortex called the motor cortex. So the motor cortex is a special part of the brain that controls movement in our bodies. And it happens to sit neuro anatomically right above our ears. So that’s why we could build halo sport into a set of headphones because the arch of the headphone, any headphone like Beats, or Bose, or whatever just naturally goes over the motor cortex. So if your listeners go to our website and they see a picture of halo sport, what they’ll notice is some specialized equipment built into the underside of the arch. So like Ben, you’re familiar with this because you’ve been using Halo Sport for a while but what your listeners will see are these things called, we call them Primers. You know within this group, they’re effectively electrodes.
Ben: Are those all the little grey things that, when I first got it, I was freaked out because they look like spikes and then later realize they were just like this rubber that you put little water on before you put the head gear on. Not actual brain spikes but is that what you were referring to? These three little plastic devices that fit onto the top of the head gear?
Daniel: Exactly. They’re called Primers…
Ben: Or rubber, I guess, they’re rubber not plastic, right?
Daniel: Uh yeah. Technically they’re pieces of foam and I mean there’s a story behind that. They’re actually calligraphy pen tips if you can believe that. So that’ll give your listeners an idea for how soft they are. They’re actually like if you’ve used a sharpie, that’s about how pliable those nibs are. And yeah, that is where we create an electric field that will gently interact with your motor cortex.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So when the tDCS or the transcranial direct, you said transcranial direct current stimulation, right?
Ben: Okay, so when that stimulation is traveling through these electrodes and stimulating my motor cortex, what exactly is happening? like what’s it doing?
Daniel: Right. So a 20-minute session with halo sport, so you know, when I say that technically what’s happening is an electric field is interacting with your motor cortex that will put the motor cortex into a temporary state of hyper learning that lasts for about an hour. So like are ask to the athlete is basically to warm up with this thing. So give us 20 minutes, so that you can neuro prime. Often our athletes are doing other things while the Halo Sport headset is on their head like typically warming up. When your warm up is done after about 20 minutes, your neuro priming session is also done. At that point, get after it. Feed your brain quality reps, deliberate reps, thoughtful repetitions, powerful repetitions. And what that will do, those repetitions will be encoded within your brain at an accelerated rate.
Ben: How is that happening?
Daniel: Yeah, so it’s making the motor cortex slightly more excitable.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Daniel: And so…
Ben: Sorry to interrupt, so the motor cortex would normally be generating like neural impulses that are gonna pass down your spinal cord and allow for execution of movement. And what this is doing is making that motor cortex hypersensitive to the input that it’s receiving from the environment?
Daniel: Right, right. It’s basically like a great way to think about this is, Ben, what if you saw me at a park and I’m struggling to do a pull-up and you’re like, “I know Dan. I’m gonna help this guy.”
Ben: I’ll just laugh at you. Right, you weakling.
Ben: “Only the strong survive, baby.”
Daniel: Fair enough. Alright. So let’s pick somebody else. Let’s pick my co-founder, Bret, or something.
Daniel: Not you, Ben.
Ben: I’m not a nice person.
Daniel: Yeah, so Bret sees me and he’s like, “Oh okay. I know Dan. I’m gonna give him 10 pounds of assistance.” And with those 10 pounds of assistance I could do it a pull-up. So basically what Halo Sport is, is that 10 pounds of assistance. You still have to do 90% of the work. We’re going to help you with that last 10%.
Ben: Now when the excitability of the motor cortex is stimulated using this transcranial direct current stimulation that’s being delivered through the head gear, it makes sense that I would be able to generate more neural impulses to muscles and then be able to acquire some kind of a skill or be able to perhaps complete a complex task like swinging a golf club, or shooting a free throw, or serving a tennis ball more efficiently. Where does the part come in where it’s actually, not only is it easier for me to like execute say the motion of a deadlift but I’m able to lift more weight. I mean is it like shutting down the golgi tendon organs in the muscle? Is it like just increasing their recruitment of motor neurons? Like why is it that I’m able to push myself and this was why I actually called this piece of headgear a dangerous piece of workout equipment because like I can just go crush myself, and if I don’t hold back I mean, I can work out really hard and be really sore the next day after I’ve used this thing after I’ve done the neuro priming session, but what’s happening there on a physiological level?
Daniel: Yeah, so there’s two things happening. So one piece of this I think is fairly easy to understand and that is like what powers are muscles. Doesn’t matter how big your muscles are. The brain is powering your muscles. So there’s a raw amount of electrical output that is related to your brain that is literally the battery for your muscles. So when you lift weights and you’re training to lift more and more weight, you are also training your brain. It’s not just about muscles, right? Like we understand muscles where we lift weights to tear down the fiber so that we can build them back bigger and stronger. But when you are lifting weights, you are also training your brain such that the raw electrical output from the brain interacting with their muscles is more robust. So that part of neuro priming like that teachable skill of telling it, like teaching your brain to generate more electrical output is a learning phenomenon. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, Ben, but like…
Ben: Okay. Got it. So I’m basically teaching my body how to recruit additional muscle fibers?
Daniel: Yes, but not only that, not only recruiting more muscle fibers but firing them, each one of them more robustly.
Ben: In a greater amount of coordination too.
Daniel: And then that’s the second part. Strength is also a skill. Like there is proper technique and form associated with lifting weights not only as an injury prevention it’s also biomechanics behind it. There’s a certain sequence of movements that you need to execute perfectly to achieve your max. If you don’t do it, if the biomechanics are not there, if the skill was not there, you are not going to lift the max that you can. So I know yourself and all of your listeners because this is your podcast and this is a pretty passionate group of people, technique is important. We all know that. And to the extent that you can learn proper technique faster. That makes you a better lifter. That makes you more powerful. So skill is a strength.
Ben: Okay, so I was speaking at a biohacker seminar over in Finland a couple of months ago, and I talked about this guy called the Goat Man. Have you ever heard of the Goat Man?
Ben: Okay, so he’s a dude who basically went to live with the goats for I think it was weeks and up to months. He’s got a whole book about it. His name is Thomas Thwaites and he strapped prosthetic limbs to his body. He attached a rumen to his stomach, like an extra rumen to his stomach. And really did like live in a field with goats for multiple months to be able to become closer to nature. But one of the things he talks about in his reports of like how he turned himself into a goat was he stimulated his motor cortex and I believe he used tDCS to stimulate his motor cortex to inhibit his ability to be able to speak the human language because he wanted to feel like he couldn’t like talk and stuff while he was out there, and that got me thinking about like how this kind of stuff could be misused. I mean, where does the safety come in when it comes to using something like tDCS to more or less shock the motor cortex like, how do you know doing something like this is safe? Like how can you overdo it? How can you know for example, why is it that he could like shock out his ability to be able to speak the English language for a certain period of time using his motor cortex? Like how do you kind of allow for this to be safe?
Daniel: Alright. So not knowing goat man is difficult for me to comment on what he did.
Ben: I’ll link to the “GoatMan” book by the way for those of you listening in if you want to read the Goat Man story. All the show notes for this podcast are over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/halosport. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/halosport just like it sounds and the book is called “GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human” but fill me in on like your take on this and like why this would be safe if he could do that to his brain.
Daniel: Alright. So okay so let’s not assume that goat man used tDCS, and let’s also not assume that even if he did, he used it in the way that we’re using it. So let me speak from halo sports’ perspective?
Daniel: And what we’ve done as a company Halo Neuroscience. So we’ve tested a lot of people. We’ve tested over 2000 people now, and many of those people multiple multiple times over and some people longitudinally for over, for several years and we collected up all these people. We ask them questions, open ended questions around safety. Primarily we’re also testing for efficacy and trying to get results but with all of these people were also looking at safety. So we’ll ask open ended questions like, “How do you feel? How does your head feel?” These types of things and we try to solicit an answer and if we don’t hear anything, if they say, “Oh everything’s fine.” Then we’ll go hunting like specifically hunting for side effects. We’ll say, “Do you have a headache? Do you have scalp pain? Do you have blurry vision? Are you having problems focusing? Are you having memory problems?” and we’ll test their memory. We’ll ask them to walk a straight line, balance on one foot, do these kinds of simple tasks to test their motor control, and we can’t find anything.
Ben: You can’t find anything in terms of like a deleterious effect of this type of stimulation?
Daniel: We can’t find anything. We also give them our phone number so when they leave if there’s anything that pops up in the hours, days, weeks thereafter, call us. And we don’t get any calls. So that’s our experience with a couple thousand people. Then we could also turn to the scientific literature. So there’s a couple of thousand papers published in the peer reviewed scientific literature that covers 80,000 people studied. And in other people’s hands with other people’s equipment using the same sort of technology and their reports on safety are also excellent. There’s nothing that we can find, and we’re looking hard for side effects and we can’t find them.
Ben: So when it comes to tDCS that’s actually something that no studies have found to be deleterious for the brain in terms of like long term use on something like this?
Daniel: Well yeah, I mean used within reason like you know with halo sport, we’ve engineered it to a specific way so that you, it’s very difficult to use them improperly.
Ben: Well, one thing that annoys me is when I wanna show it to my friends and let them work out with it, like it automatically makes it so that I can’t use the unit again for, I believe, it’s like a 24-hour period of time. Is that the frequency with which you’re comfortable recommending people use it?
Daniel: Yeah, so it’s a little bit less than that I think it’s eight hours.
Ben: Oh is it eight hours? Okay. Somebody said it was 24.
Daniel: Yeah, and that is really diminishing returns, Ben. You could use it back to back. You could use it for two back to back sessions but you’re not going to get any additional benefit from that second session.
Daniel: So we just lock you out.
Ben: Okay. Got it. You lock it out. I notice I got like open a support ticket if I want to like use it again within that 8-hour time frame, and did you guys just kind of choose that randomly or is that based on research in terms of like the frequency with which the use of something like this is recommended?
Daniel: Yeah based on research, based on peer review journal articles. So yeah, it’s less of a safety risk. It’s more of a diminishing returns. You know, sure after some point of like extreme use there might be a little bit of skin irritation. So we just want to avoid all of that and we also know our customers. Our customers are hungry for performance.
Ben: Got it.
Daniel: And if you tell them 20 minutes is good, they’ll think 40 minutes is twice as good, 60 minutes is three times as good. We just want to relieve people of the temptation and lock amount.
Ben: So I’ve been experimenting with this thing for about a month and like I mentioned, I used it before a couple of tennis lessons. My wife and I now are, this is our form of marriage strength building is where we’re now playing in mixed doubles tournaments together and doing afternoon lessons on Wednesdays. So we go and we’re gonna start on Wednesdays and while we’re driving in the car, I have my halo sport on my head and of course she laughs at me whenever I do these things, but I love experimenting with this stuff to allow me to better absorb what it is that Jeff, our tennis instructor, is going through with us in terms of me standing taller on my back hand and me rotating more of my forehand and having a looser grip on my serve, etcetera, and it seems to really work for that type of skill acquisition in addition to being able to help me be kind of a more of a beast when I’m lifting heavy weights. But what I haven’t tried it yet for and what I wanted to ask you about was, can this be used for like learn, like if I wanted to do language learning or if I want to for example like, if I have an important or dense book to read, can I do a neuro priming session before something like that and experience benefit or is that not something this is designed for?
Daniel: So not with halo sport. Halo sport is a motor cortex specific neuro stimulator. So it should be used for movement based training.
Ben: Okay, so it’s all movement based?
Daniel: Right, but let me maybe give you a window into the vision for the company. You know, we want to grow into a human performance company. We don’t want to stop with just sports. So there are other parts of the brain that we can reach, that we can neuro modulate, that we can induce these temporary states of hyper learning to be used and to give different customer basis value. So in essence, we want to challenge this 10,000-hour rule. We want to challenge the slowness of human learning.
Ben: Got it.
Daniel: Let me ask you this, Ben, are there things in your life that you don’t even consider thinking about? Like you don’t even think about starting it because it takes too long to learn?
Ben: Yeah. I mean like right now. I’m messing around with ukulele and guitar, but I thought about, because my kids just got this cool little actually really nice piano up on the hallway, I’ve thought about starting to play piano but I know the 10,000 hour rule. We were actually talking about this at the dinner table last night with the family how if I started playing the piano right now, I’m 35, I’d be about 60 by the time you know, with the amount of time I can devote to piano to where I’d actually be really good at playing the piano, and I mean like I’m all about like stick-to-itiveness and practice, and dedication but that does also seem like an intimidating amount of time to get good at something.
Daniel: Totally, and you might not have the patience and this would be very reasonable to like withstand the first five years of sounding really bad.
Daniel: There’s all kinds of things like in my life what if I wanted to get better like I want, like I speak very poor Spanish, I want to get better. I played guitar as a kid and I’m terrible now. I want to get better at that but I don’t even start doing it, any of these things because it’s just, it’s too painful to learn. And I’m not willing to go down this path because, you’re right, I’m gonna be 60 before like I’m at an amptitude that I’m actually happy with.
Daniel: So let’s say for example with Spanish. You want to learn Spanish and you’re using Duolingo on your phone and it’s happening at this annoyingly slow rate like, what if you paired that with neuro stimulation of your language cortex.
Ben: So that’s the part, and so you’ve got your language cortex, your motor cortex and different cortices on different sections of the brain and you basically know based on the shape of the head where on the skull to play something like tDCS to hit a different cortex.
Daniel: Exactly. So yeah this is sort of a window into what we want to do for our next product, right? You know might not be language but it’s a good one. You could actually use Halo Sport for music. It’s not going to help you with the emotional or creative aspects of producing music…
Ben: But it would help with where my fingers are placed.
Daniel: Exactly. It’ll help you with the technical aspects and it’s really interesting, Ben. Like you know we’ve been live as a commercial company for about a month and a half now and we’ve been able to engage with many of our users who have bought units, and we asked them, “What are you using it for?” And just a really surprising number of musicians are behind us. Like this is a user base that we’ve, we haven’t done any marketing towards like we’ve been only focused on sports.
Ben: That’s awesome. I’m actually headed down to LA tomorrow morning for some trips and meetings, and stuff down there, and I always pack my ukulele when I can because I like to play the ukulele in the evenings. I’m actually gonna toss my halo sport in my bag and try this. Try a neuro priming session before I play my uke just to see what happens. I hadn’t thought about using it for something like that but that’s actually, that’s a really cool idea and I can just use it around in my motor cortex to for example like allow my fingers to learn better where to be placed?
Daniel: Yeah, that sort of manual dexterity that is required out of your fingers particularly in your left hand because that’s the hand that’s interacting with the strings.
Ben: Gotcha. Now there are actually, there’s three different settings, so just the way that this works for those of you listening in, it syncs with an app on your phone. So you open up the app and the app allows you to like start a session, pause a sessions or, and this is what I want to ask you about, Doctor Chao, choose a different session. So there’s like one for legs, and arms, and core, but then there are two other sessions for, I believe, it’s like the hands and fingers, right?
Daniel: Yeah, so you know most of our users, if you’re using it for purposes for applications in the gym, you want to use, “legs, core, shoulders” that application of that mode. For the two other modes that are really getting at fingers and hands, this is for like a really delicate work for hands and fingers so this would be playing a musical instrument like a guitar or piano or violin. It would be for video gamers.
Ben: That’s what I was going to ask you about for like e-sports if it can be used for something like that.
Daniel: Absolutely. So for your keyboard hand or if you play console games for you know, either of hands need to be very quick and dexterous. Certainly for your mouse hand if you’re like playing league of legends or counter strike or anything like that that really requires like precision with your mouse hand. Incredible amount of fine motor control that is required. So yeah, so those two programs for hands and fingers, it’s those types of applications and like for some of our work with the military, they use hands and fingers setting for shooting practice.
Ben: So I could use this like, so if I’m right handed and I shoot a bow, which I do, I trained for bow hunting competitions would I want to run the session that targets my right hand or my left hand?
Daniel: Probably a little bit of both. Both need to be pretty steady.
Ben: Do I just run two sessions and do one for my left and one for my right?
Daniel: Yeah, probably on separate days.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So what’s going on when you’re stimulating the motor cortex? Like what’s the different signal that you’re sending when you choose right versus left, or is it just like targeting just a specific part of the head gear versus the whole thing?
Daniel: Yes, so the motor cortex is divided into different areas, so there’s certain areas that are used to control your fingers. There are certain areas that are used to control your legs, arms, shoulders, so on and so forth.
Daniel: Every muscle group is represented in this typography that is called a homunculus. So they say there’s a little man in your brain and it’s sort of referring to the anatomic divisions of your motor cortex. So, like we know how the motor cortex maps and we can take advantage of that. So that’s why if you look at the underside of the arch of halo sport, there’s three different electrodes, depending on which program you pick, they’ll turn on or off different combinations of those three that are lying on your scalp.
Ben: Okay. That makes sense. That makes sense.
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Ben: The main one I’ve been using is just the “legs, arm, and core” just ‘cause I wanted to get like the full meal deal effect but I was curious about those other two sessions that I haven’t really played around much with because I kinda wanted to get your take on when would be an appropriate time to use them. So that’s really interesting.
Daniel: For the applications that you’ve talked about, it’s a hundred percent appropriate that you use the “leg, core, and arm” program so you’re doing things right, but like if and when you want to try it with your uke, I’d recommend the “hands and fingers” program specifically the one that favors your left hand.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now there are a bunch of, the first time I really ran across transcranial direct current stimulation to deliver these low currents to the brain was actually on reddit. There’s like a whole bunch of groups, and I’ll link to them on reddit, there are like “make your own tDCS units” etcetera and this was, I started to look into this after listening to a really interesting radio lab episode in which they talked about, I believe this woman who was, she was testing out like shooting I think, is what it was and found that her performance on shooting tests just like went through the roof after a short amount of time of tDCS. And then after that episode, I went over to Reddit and there were a whole bunch of like tutorials on there about like “how to make your own tDCS headgear” using essentially like nine volt batteries and stuff you could buy at RadioShack more or less. So how is this any different than like a ‘do-it-yourselfers’ on TDCS that you finding a lot of people doing on these like Reddit forums?
Daniel: Yeah, so the Radio Lab is called “9 Bolt Nirvana” if you want to link to that or if you’re just curious or want to just Google search. If you Google “Nirvana Radio Lab” it’ll be your first hit almost guaranteed. And yeah, I would say that is a pretty dramatic representation of what could happen. Perhaps sensationalized a bit, but still I mean, this happened to her, so I don’t want to discount that, but yeah, it was pretty incredible so I encourage your listeners, you have to check that out. It’s entertaining at the very least. And then there’s the Reddit forum for tDCS. I think there’s probably close to 9,000 people on that forum, so it’s a pretty robust forum. And this is really like a part of the world that I love like this biohacker community, I think it’s just so damn cool, like people building their own stuff and just trying it, and just taking control over their bodies and self-experimentation, and this is all in an effort to learn from each other and to get better. So like I regularly surf that forum, a more just kind of a listener and not a contributor. Maybe I’ll change in the coming days and weeks but yeah, I just I love sort of engaging with this community just sort of as a bystander to see what they’re up to.
Now, the downside of this community is that there is a fair amount of technical skill to build a working neuro stimulator. There’s recipes that are posted and you have to go to fry’s or radio shack or even build a little board from digikey, and you can do it. With a little bit of reading and maybe looking up some electrical engineering books and this kind of thing, you could probably do it. But can you do it to the extent that you’ve really build in all of the controls to make sure you’re getting a quality and consistent current, amount of current that you have the safety lock out such that if you’re over stimulating, your circuit knows about it and gracefully turns itself off? Do you have access to quality electrodes that can get through hair conveniently easily, cleanly? So, that you know that the contact patch is actually going over the part of the brain that you want to modulate? Like you know these are all kinds of things that the biohacker community should ask itself to make sure that they’re doing things right.
And another thing that sort of challenges the field of biohacking is the lack of organization. It’s basically a group of solo actors doing things sort of, one off things in an open label fashion, so everybody knows that they’re getting the real thing. You know the way we do research is very different. We have people come into our lab and half of the people get real stimulation, the other half of the people get what we call sham stimulation. So it feels like the real thing, but it actually doesn’t work. So, we’re able to and you know both groups get the exact same training and testing. So we know that any amount of training will make people better, right? If that makes sense.
Daniel: Train to get better. So, it’s not enough for us to say we help you get better. Like we have to get better in excess of a control group. And that’s how, that’s sort of the amount of scrutiny and rigor that we put our results against. And you know that’s how we build products, that’s how we innovate and none of this happens in the biohacker community.
Ben: Okay. So basically what you’re saying is that this device is just a more precise and more controlled if you didn’t wanna kinda like cowboy your way through tDCS yourself.
Daniel: Right, like you can build a thermostat or you can buy a nest.
Daniel: Like there’s just like features and functionality and thought that has gone into a device that nest has gone through versus you could hack together a thermostat, and just use that and plug that into your wall. Probably work, cost you less money but there’s probably important features that you’re missing too.
Ben: Now, Michael Johnson is a sprinter and he’s the guy famous for wearing the gold Nike shoes back in the day, and he won four Olympic gold medals. I know he’s using this a lot himself and with a lot of the athletes that he’s coaching now for sprint performance and from what I understand, and this I believe was how I found out about the halo sport, the Golden State Warriors used this during their basketball season last year, is that true?
Daniel: Yeah, so I can’t speak towards that.
Ben: Okay. Alright. Well I’ll try and find the article linked to it, but what I want to ask you actually is who’s using this? Like, are the people that are actually using it in terms of the professional sports realm and if so, what are they reporting back about it?
Daniel: Yeah, so we’re the big four professional sports in the United States, so football basketball, baseball, hockey, we’re live across all four of those big sports and some sports there’s just a deeper understanding and a better cultural fit for training technology such as ours. So, I would say we’re more deeply penetrated within baseball partly because there’s something called a minor league in baseball. And there’s an understanding that a 24-year old rookie is still a pretty young rookie. It takes a long time to build the skill and to understand the craft of baseball before you can play professional baseball. So, like we only see the 40 players that make the majors but there’s another 180 players in the minors that we don’t see. And all of these people are hungry to make majors.
Daniel: And the team has a shared interest in that making the majors because they end up being a cheap professional for them. Like you know, to the extent that you can train these young players to be professional major leaguers faster. That’s before they become free agents and it’s sort of cheaper talent. So they have a shared interest in trading these folks to be true Major League Baseball players. So baseball’s been a great place for us to start but yeah, like with the NFL, especially with the combine training which we are entering that season right now. You know as ball games finish, the top college football players drop out of school and they go into 6 weeks of hell. The NFL combine is in late February, so combine training basically starts right now, and they settle in at these elite training facilities like Michael Johnson performance is one of them, but there are others and they train like crazy for 6 weeks to optimize every last little ounce of performance that they possibly can so that they can perform better in front of NFL scouts at the combine. So programs like this combine training is great for us because we love data.
Daniel: We love to put ourselves up against a number, right?
Ben: Yeah, that makes sense. And by the way, that article about the Golden State Warriors, I’ll link to it in the show notes but that same article talks about like the Golden State Warriors and much of Olympians using this to prepare for Rio, talks about like some different hurdlers and sprinters, and actually I had a couple questions for you based on that specific article. For example, a lot of the athletes were saying that they felt as though they were covered more quickly. Is that just a placebo effect? I mean, I don’t understand how stimulating the motor cortex pride activity would assist with later recover of the muscle fibers and I’ll be, I’ll shoot straight with you. Like for me, I’m more sore the day after I use it because I push myself harder.
Daniel: Yeah you know, Ben, we get it both ways. And I think there’s, let me stop by first saying we haven’t studied this formally. So what I’m about to say is based purely on empirical evidence that I hear by word of mouth from like users like yourself. I’ve heard it both ways. I’ve heard it from people who say they feel neurologically, like from a brain standpoint, neurologically more recovered the next day and they would have otherwise. I’ve also heard something that people called readiness, right, like there’s like a readiness to go or that you could assign at different parts of your body. And they feel neurologically more ready much earlier than their workout. So what would have taken 20 minutes to kind of get into the flow neurologically, they feel right from the very beginning. I’ve also heard it your way, Ben, where people say, “Listen, I worked out so hard the day before that the next day there’s a little bit of a hangover.” You know, that’s good and bad like a good hard intense workout is going to help with performance. But you know the next day you gotta take it easy. Yeah, because we are human and we do break, and we need to take care of ourselves and we need to limit our reps. So you know our whole mantra is around making every rep, like every rep is precious.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Daniel: Like the human body is allowed a certain number of reps. You have a lifetime number of reps, and that lifetime number of reps starts counting down the second you are born. And it is up to you during your physical prime to make the most out of those reps.
Ben: That’s something that’s actually been on my mind a lot lately while I’ve been working out. Maybe it’s just ‘cause I’m getting freaking old and I’m thinking about dying. I don’t know, but I really want to maximize my time in the gym, so I use like not thinking about breathing at all when I’d work out. I’d just breathe the way I breathe and I’d work out, and now I make a concerted effort to make every breath count. So I do a ton now and we’ve done some recent podcast on this, when I’m in the gym or exercising outdoors, a lot of nasal breathing and a lot of breath hold training because I figure from out there anyways, I might as well make every second count. That’s kinda like my logic with using this halo like if I’m gonna be doing deadlifts I wanna make every rep count. So if I can stack on either side of the bar 15 to 25 extra pounds, or I can recruit my hamstrings more efficiently because I’ve done the motor cortex neuropriming beforehand, I’ll take it. Like I’ll take every extra rep and so for me it seems like it’s perhaps going hand in hand with increased age but I agree with you on that every rep counting thing.
Daniel: Can I just add to that?
Daniel: One thought. So we have some users use halo sport as an efficiency tool rather than a performance tool. So there’s a group of athletes that are like, “I will do everything for every last bit of performance and let’s go after it. I wanna set records for myself or for the world.” And that’s awesome. There are other sports that you train to a certain aptitude and then it’s about saving your body. For example the military, like the military, I didn’t know this but for special operations, you need to train for years before your first real day on the job, and even then you’re still kind of learning the craft. So it takes years to make one Navy Seal for example, a one Green Beret. And it’s in the military’s best interest also the best interests of the soldier to keep that job. So part of keeping the job is not having your body break to the extent that they can make their training more efficient. So they out less training load on the athlete and I’m talking about technical athlete’s now, military personnel. That’s a good thing. So I didn’t know this but there are many Navy Seals that are in their young forties. So Navy Seal could be an active military for you know 20 some odd years before they retire from active duty. And that’s a good thing because these are such highly trained individuals like let’s keep them fresh for as long as possible so that they could stay on the job. And then also for football. So football is so physical. When you’re on season, it’s more about survival than performance, and yet you still have to train. So what if we can make that training more efficient.
Daniel: Let’s think about training load and minimizing training load to maintain a certain level of performance aptitude. So yeah, it’s about getting the most out of every rep. The most bit of performance out of every rep whether it be to a certain aptitude and you’re done or just really going for it.
Ben: Right. Yeah, that make sense and that actually leads to the other question I wanted to ask you and that’s this like whole concept of like neuro doping, right? And I know like the World Anti-Doping Association from what I understand, hasn’t banned like Lasik eye surgery or the use of neurofeedback or the use of tDCS or something like that, but especially we mentioned e-sports a little bit ago which is turning into like a billion plus dollar industry in terms of it being like the Superbowl of gaming. So there’s athletes like neurodoping with Modafinil or Aderall for alertness prior to competitions like that and then there’s also of course, folks who as we just mentioned like Olympians who are using this device. Do you think that this stuff is going to remain legal? I mean, have you guys looked into that? Do you know if WADA is talking at all about starting to regulate the use of these kinda devices?
Daniel: So let me answer that a couple different ways. So let’s answer it like very formally as defined by WADA. So WADA has three criteria of which if you have two out of the three then you are considered illegal. First criteria is you get something for free. Second criteria is that it is unsafe for the athlete. Third criteria is that it is against the spirit of the sport. Okay, so the first criteria, getting something for free, that’s not us. You can neuro stimulate all you want but if you don’t train, nothing’s going to happen.
Ben: Okay. So when you mean getting something for free, you mean like it’s not that if an athlete received like a free device from you it would be considered doping?
Daniel: Oh, not economically free.
Ben: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense.
Daniel: Yeah, like so…
Ben: You still need to engage in deliberate practice when you use this.
Daniel: Right. Like EPO, you get free red blood cells. Steroids, you get free lean body mass. There’s things that you get, like Modafinil, you get free attention and focus. You get something for free like fortunately with neuropriming, you get nothing for free. You still have to do the work like nothing happens unless you feed the brain training repetitions. Okay, so that’s number one. Number two is around safety and again I’ll just refer to the data like our data, the data in the published literature, everything points towards a safe product. And then three, against spirit of the sport. This is kind of a grab bag. There’s a lot of subjectivity around this. I think it would be hard to argue that using electricity in the brain would be against the spirit of any sport like electricity in the body. Like people used muscle stimulators for recovery, and for rehab, and these kinds of things like we’ve been using electricity in the body for decades. I think it would be very difficult for anyone to argue that using electricity the way we’re using it is anything different from how we’ve been using it historically. So, that’s the WADA criteria.
Let’s just have fun and talk about performance enhancement in general. It quickly becomes a philosophical discussion which is, again, I think it’s just a lot of fun. If you think about performance enhancement, most performance enhancing products and techniques are actually legal. Like lifting weights is performance enhancing, right? Like a good night’s sleep is performance enhancing.
Daniel: Training at altitude is performance enhancing even some weirder things like sleeping in hyperbaric chambers, and the Lebron James liquid nitrogen thing where you rapidly cool your body. That’s also legal.
Daniel: So there’s actually more forms of legal performance enhancement than illegal.
Daniel: But where something becomes illegal is you know, I think WADA does a nice job this kind of crystallizing that with their three criteria.
Ben: Yeah, so is it free, and what are the other two, one more time.
Daniel: Yeah, you get something for free from performance. Safety.
Daniel: And then the third thing is it’s against the spirit of the sport.
Ben: Okay. Yeah, okay. Well, that make sense. I mean, it’s a whole different discussion, everything from lasik to chryotherapy, to all these other means. I guess the question with this is like if some athletes are able to get it because they can afford it does that somehow make it unfair for athletes who maybe can’t afford something like this or don’t have access to it? You’d like, does the inner city basketball player trying to make it in the NBA, are they at a disadvantage because they can’t get like you know lasik eye surgery for their free throws and then tDCS for enhancing their dribbling skills prior to practice?
Daniel: Well. It’s a 750 dollar device. You know if you’re an elite athlete, you should have the funds to have access to a 750 dollar device. It doesn’t matter what country you come from like, any of the elite sports organizations that I’ve ever been to and attended some that, talk to someone that are more cash strapped. Like 750 bucks is something you could still afford.
Ben: And by the way. it’s actually 6:30 if you stay in until the end of the podcast, we’ll give folks a discount code.
Daniel: Oh, right. There you go. There you go. And yeah, we do and we have certain discount programs like buying at volume, get a discount. Those kind of things.
Ben: Yeah, okay. I have a few other questions for you. Just a few practical questions while I’ve got you on. First of all, why do I need to put water? It comes with a little spray bottle to spray these little rubber electrodes. Why do I need to do that prior to using it?
Daniel: Yeah, so we still need a flow of ions to go. We need a bunch of positive ions to go in one direction then on the other side we need a bunch of negative ions to go the other way, and for that we need a solution.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So not just to solidify the connection.
Daniel: Right. We need a little bit of water. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but we need a little bit of water to interact with your scalp so that we could have good electrical contact.
Ben: Okay and what if, because obviously the motor cortex is located on a specific part of the head and when I open up the app it shows me where to place the actual headgear like how to place it, and it even won’t start the session until it’s placed correctly, until it solidifies the connection, but I mean what happens if you put this like too far forward or too far back, are you like shocking areas of your brain you shouldn’t be shocking or what’s gonna happen if something like that occurs? Like if I’m, well to give you an example, I currently have a bicycle next to my gym and what I’ve been doing, when I use it prior to workouts is I’ll hop on the bicycle and just wear it for 20 minutes while I’m doing my cycling and warming up, and then I’ll hop off the bicycle and go do the hard stuff or the complex tasks. But I wonder like you know when I stand on the bicycle or when I sit back if like the headgear kinda moves forward or back a little bit like what’s happening? Am I risking something if it moves a little bit?
Daniel: Right. So we designed halo sport such that, with the understanding that there could be some variability in the way people put on the set of headphones. So we’ve already accounted for a centimeter of play either in the forward or backwards direction. So, and we did a bunch of user testing on several hundreds people and we just ask them to put it on. And greater than 95% got it right the first time. Where some people, we need to educate some people especially some of the younger folks where just from a style perspective they like to tilt it further back. That’s not the way you wear halo sport.
Daniel: When you’re standing up straight, the headset should be pretty much vertical. And yeah, but for the most part people get it right the first time without any instruction.
Daniel: If you were to be really extreme about it, you would be missing the parts of your brain that you need to stimulate for athletic training. You would be stimulating other parts of your brain and there’d be really no downside. You just wouldn’t get the upside.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So make sure that I really do have it placed over the motor cortex when I use it.
Ben: Alright. Got it. And then the other question that I had for you and this is just something I found interesting was, before you developed this and help design it, you developed this thing called a neuroPace, and from what I understand this is something similar except it’s actually like via a surgical procedure placed into the skull, is that correct?
Daniel: Yeah. So my whole career is around using electricity as a therapeutic agent for the brain. So our last project and this is where Bret and I, my now co-founder, actually met so Bret and I go back like 15 years. We were both really employees at this company called NeuroPace. So at NeuroPace we built basically a pacemaker for the brain. And you’re exactly right, Ben, it’s an implanted product, so it’s typically a 3-hour surgery where a neurosurgeon delicately inserts electrodes into the brain with an electronic pulse generator about the size of a small matchbox getting implanted in the skull. When everything is kinda stitched up, its cosmetically transparent. You can’t tell that anything’s been implanted so that’s good. And also when everything gets stitched up, the equipment under the skin has everything it needs to function autonomously. So it has its own battery, it’s own computer chip, it’s own software, and it can function for three to five years on its own. And what it does is it’s constantly listening to the brain’s electrical activity. Such that if it senses an electrical signal suggestive of about to happen, it proactively delivers a small electrical impulse to the brain to then normalize its activity. So you know, epilepsy is a disease of seizures, they can happen basically any time, at unpredictable times, which is problematic for the patient. It is a chronic disease. You typically get epilepsy when you’re very young and you live the rest of your life with it. It’s a disease that’s very difficult to treat with drugs, unfortunately. So the opportunity to use a device to really help people was something that we you know, I am really proud that we accomplished that at our last company.
Ben: Yeah, that’s interesting that you decided that for this particular thing. You’re not gonna require Olympians to split open their skulls and implant a device to their heads. Not quite a sale?
Daniel: Yeah, yeah. Well you know, that’s actually one of the things that made us sad at NeuroPace. Is that even some of our patients who are severely epileptic and were offered this life changing technology, and you could see in their eyes that they can envision a new life for themselves if they were to go through that surgery and yet they declined it because they’re too afraid of the surgery.
Daniel: So you know, what we want to deal with halo is really like get around that. Like we saw an opportunity to build neuro stimulators that are specifically noninvasive. That could be built into elegant wearable electronics.
Ben: Yeah. Cool. I mean it’s kind of sexy looking. I mean honestly, you know, and I’ll put a photo of it in the show notes if you guys wanna see it, but I mean it’s literally just like a cool piece of headgear and honestly when I travel with it what I found is because it has that audio cable that allows you to connect it to an MP3 player or a phone while you have the head gear on, I can double up and use it as like a sound blocking device when I’m on an airplane, etcetera, and just have like one less thing to pack. So I just take the electrodes off and I put the headgear on and just listen to music through it. So if anything else it’s just like a really a kinda sorta spendy pair of headphones if you decide you don’t want to do the tDCS. You’ve always got that option.
Daniel: Yeah, thanks. Thanks, man.
Ben: Yeah. No worries. Just in case tDCS doesn’t work out for you, you guys can get to the headphone business.
Daniel: (chuckles) Well, we actually did put a lot of effort into the sound, and the sound is actually better than Beats like you can compare the audio spectrum from ours.
Ben: Yeah. So if you’re listening in and you wanna get this, and you own Beats, you can just like throw your pair of Dr. Dre Beats on Craigslist and get a couple hundred extra bucks to put towards this thing. I own it and I know when I do these broadcasts, you guys all wonder like, “How does Ben use all these different biohacking devices?” And honestly, it’s not hard really, like I have like my little infrared device that I just throw on at night. I keep it on my bed stand when I’m reading at night before bed and I run that for about 20 minutes. And then when I’m writing in my fiction book, I do my neurofeedback for about 30 minutes a day and, again, just kind of double timing my writing and my neurofeedback. And then for this, for the halo, like I mentioned, I just while I’m doing my warm up that I’d be doing anyways, I throw this thing on and do my neuropriming with it or I wear it in the car when my wife and I are driving to tennis and it’s pretty easy to implement this kind of stuff into your life once you figure out how to make biohacking a habit.
And the only risk you take is of course funny looks that you might get from people when you’re driving down the street with laser light stuck up your nose or some tDCS device chuck in your head, and by the way, the last thing we should mention I think, Doctor Chao, is it’s like a light tingling sensation. I think I’ve been using the word shock. It’s not like you’re racing a Tough Mudder and flipping out, and going into seizures on the floor because you’re getting a true shock. It’s like a tingly. It’s like somebody is giving you a little scalp massage up on your motor cortex.
Daniel: Yeah, thanks for that. Yeah, it’s a pretty mild sensation.
Ben: Just a clarification. It’s not necessarily designed for masochists in that sense. However masochist in the sense that if want to push yourself hard, this thing works, skill acquisition a lot of really interesting research that you guys are putting on your website, Doctor Chao. From explosiveness to power, to write a force development, to muscle fiber recruitment. So this thing really does have some cool studies behind it. I’m using it. I really think it’s a game changer in terms of getting through a hard workout, and one other thing I wanted to mention to folks is that after a long day for me like a cognitively demanding day when it’s hard for me to push myself through hard workout, this is like my new trick, my new hack is I put this on and it actually, because it reduces the rating of perceived exertion, it makes that hard work out that I normally would substitute for like you know, an easy walk in the sunshine ‘cause it allows me to get through like the tougher training session and get a little bit more fitness into my body on the day.
So cool, cool thing that you developed, Doctor Chao, and I want to thank you for coming on the show and sharing this with us tonight. Also, for those of you who wanna get the discount, I’ll fill you in on how you get that. You can go to the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/halosport. I’ll put a link to the halo and you wind up on their website, and when you do you get 120 dollars off. So dropped it from 750 down to 630. It’s free 2-day US shipping, so you’ll get it just about right after you order it for free if you live around the US. There’s no interest financing, if you want to split this up and pay like 100 bucks a month for 6 months and get it that way, cool way to spread out the cost if you need to go easy on the cash flow and then there’s a 30-day money back guarantee on it too. So if you decide it doesn’t actually make you play the ukulele better, you can just send it back. And so it’s a cool deal. So that’s all over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/halosport That’s where the show notes are or if you just want to cut straight to the chase, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/halo and you can grab one for yourself. Doctor Chao, I wanna thank you for coming on the show today.
Daniel: No, thanks, man. I really enjoyed it. It’s been great, yeah, thank you.
Ben: Awesome. Well folks, until next time, I’m Ben greenfield along with Doctor Chao from Halo Sport signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com . Have a healthy week.
Last week, I posted to Instagram the “most dangerous piece of workout equipment I own”.
And no, it was not a mace, or a unicycle, or a parachute or any other risky exercise device.
Instead, it was a simple piece of headgear that looks like a nice set of earphones.
But within that headgear is embedded one of the devices known to modern exercise science when it comes to doing things like making a hard, voluminous workout feel shockingly simple and short, allowing you to acquire skills like a tennis serve or golf swing at double or triple the speed you’d normally be able to, and enabling you to push much, much harder during a workout than you’d ever be able to do without a little bit of help from modern brain biohacking.
The device is called a Halo, and I call it “dangerous” because it allows me to push my body and brain to levels I’d never be able to reach on my own.
And it’s all based on the science of something called “neuropriming”. Developed from fifteen years of academic research, neuropriming is basically the process of causing excitability of motor neurons before or during athletic and exercise training to things like improve strength, skill, explosiveness, and endurance.
Michael Johnson, 4x Olympic Gold Medalist says that “…it’s doing something that we’ve never seen before – something the sports market’s never seen before…”
We’re talking explosive force development, increased propulsive force, enhanced skill acquisition, increased rate of force development, and host of other factors influenced by the ability of neuropriming to put the brain’s motor cortex in a temporary state of hyper-learning that lasts for about an hour. During this post neuropriming time, feeding your brain quality athletic training repetitions results in this information being more fully incorporated into your brain. Essentially, the headgear I’ve been using allows me to push far harder than my brain would normally let me and makes practice of a skill far more productive and efficient for the brain.
Normally, athletes require literally thousands of reps to create the neurologic changes necessary to perform at the highest level come game time. But this technology changes all that.
It’s called a “Halo“.
Dr. Daniel Chao, my guest on today’s podcast, is a neurotech entrepreneur who specializes in devices that improve brain performance. He is the co-founder and CEO of Halo Neuroscience. The company’s first product, Halo Sport, is the first neurostimulation system built specifically for athletes.
Before Halo, Dr. Chao was the head of business development at NeuroPace where he played a central role in the development of the world’s first responsive neurostimulation system that was approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy in a unanimous 13-0 vote. Prior to Neuropace, Dr. Chao was a consultant at McKinsey & Company and earned his M.D. and M.S. in neuroscience from Stanford University.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-The special part of the brain mammals possess that other less complex species do not, and how you can target that specific area of the brain…[10:40]
-How something called transcranial direct current stimulation, also known as tDCS, can be used to stimulate certain section of your brain…[12:52]
-What kind of studies have been done on “neuropriming” to actually show whether or not it actually works…[15:10]
-Why workouts and skill acquisition actually feel easier after you “shock your brain”…[18:00]
-When shocking your brain can actually be safe, and when you should avoid it like the plague…[21:45]
-Whether something like this can be used general cognitive performance such as language learning or focus…[27:30 & 30:00]
-How to use tDCS stimulation for video gaming and playing instruments…[32:25]
-The super-charged sniper training RadioLab episode on which Ben first discovered tDCS and how the Halo is any different than the 20 dollar “make your own TDCS” threads on Reddit…[39:05]
-The pro athletes currently using the Halo and what they have reported for results…[45:25]
-Whether or not this type of brain training is considered neurodoping by the World Anti Doping Association…[53:20]
-What happens if you wear headgear is too far forward or too far back…[59:50]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode: