Making an impact within the consumer space with its first brain stimulator, Halo Neuroscience recently launched its fully upgraded Halo Sport 2 at a price point that makes neurostimulation even more accessible.
Their first product, Halo Sport, was originally released at CES 2017, which earned them a Fast Company Award for “Most Innovative Companies” in Fitness. This headset stimulated the motor cortex during athletic training to accelerate gains in strength, endurance, and skill.
Halo Neuroscience is a neurotechnology company that claims to champion the human potential. Halo partners include the Berklee College of Music, U.S. Olympic teams, Titleist Performance Institute, and U.S. Naval Special Warfare. In addition, Halo Sport is trusted by teams and athletes from the U.S. military, Olympics, MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA, and more. The company is based in San Francisco, California and is backed by TPG, Andreessen Horowitz, Jazz Venture Partners, and Lux Capital.
Many users of the first headset started noticing improvements to their training and sessions almost immediately, but one of the impedances was not having a cordless experience. As hoped for in the new Halo Sport 2, Bluetooth audio has been integrated for an entirely wireless experience.
“We also revamped the Primer form factor to make Neuropriming as easy as possible, and the Halo Sport app to feature tracking, reminders, and new content,” says Halo Neuroscience CEO and co-founder, Dr. Daniel Chao. “From the beginning, we’ve been committed to making Neuropriming accessible to everyone, so Halo Sport 2 will retail for $399* — the same price as a pair of Beats Pro.”
So how does a brain stimulator work and what does it actually do?
The concept of “neuropriming” – that is, non-invasively zapping your brain to be more malleable and active in order to improve forming of new synaptic connections (or strengthening existing ones), is not new and has been around for a few decades. However, it was not something that was readily available if you didn’t have access to a lab or appropriate equipment. Especially for people seeking to be at the top of their game in their own vocation, there’s a lot of interest in this technology since it increases brain plasticity. The increased likelihood of becoming even faster, stronger, or more skillful through reinforcing existing neural connections can make all the difference for elite athletes.
The Halo Sport 2 headset uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to send weak direct currents (below 2-3 mA) for a few minutes over the scalp. In a study recently published by Yoon et al. in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, the Halo headset was shown to stimulate the primary motor cortex areas of the brain, effectively priming the brain for motor-related movements. In this particular study, applying tDCS for 21 minutes with the Halo headset during cranio-cervical flexion exercise helped strengthen the sternocleidomastoid (a neck muscle) more effectively while improving pain and associated functions in patients with cervicogenic headache. Non-invasive brain stimulation techniques are known as a safe and effective method for pain control and functional improvement.
That is just one of many studies. Halo Sport is backed by more than 15 years of research and 4,000 peer-reviewed papers. The company is also kicking off new studies with a few organizations to further unpack how brain stimulation improves athletic performance and accelerates skill development in music and esports.
I tried out Halo Sport 2 for myself as part of my Olympic weightlifting regimen. It was great to have a fully wireless experience without worrying about keeping my cell phone nearby or having that spotty Bluetooth signal often experienced when using adapters. The increased portability and flexibility allowed me to prime my motor cortex as I did warm-up exercises, and the new primer form factor makes it even easier to wet the electrodes prior to use. (Pro tip: instead of running the tips under the faucet for a minute, try submerging them in water instead). After beginning the 20-minute neuropriming session by hitting “Start” in the companion phone app, I felt the familiar tingle across my scalp. While fellow lifters would ask me if the headset made me instantly smarter or gave me superpowers (maybe it does – mind over matter, right?), if you haven’t tried such a device before, I’d caution against unrealistic expectations. If we could have an instant download of knowledge and skills as in “The Matrix,” then we would all be doing it by now.
For the hour following the priming session your brain is in a “hyperplastic state,” where you have an increased potential for creating new synapses and fortifying existing ones. That is to say, there is a greater chance for you to get more out of your movement drills. However, we each know that every workout and day is a different beast, and there’s still going to be good days and bad days.
Knowing this, I did believe that I had a better chance of having a “good lifting session” because I could immediately feel the effects of Halo Sport 2 on my ability to focus. I felt completely “tuned-in” more quickly, and that focus goes a long way when drilling various components of a complex movement. Of course, if I was already exhausted, there’s only so much effect neuropriming or any other stimulus could have. On days where I was particularly exhausted, using the headset felt similar to trying to have additional cups of coffee late in the day but feeling ultimately immune and persistently tired. But the latter state is on me for not being more rested before training. All in all, the results from using Halo Sport 2 for a few weeks was akin to the results of using version 1 of the headset, but the new headset is definitely something to be desired. It looks sleeker, sounds better, and provides an even more improved experience overall.
After celebrating 250,000 Halo Sport training sessions worldwide and landing partnerships with Equinox and TRX in 2018, Halo Neuroscience has proven that the appetite for neurostimulation extends far beyond the elite athletes that initially adopted the technology. The goal of Halo Sport 2 is to provide the same benefit to all athletes, musicians, and gamers as it has for elite athletes: the ability to do more in less practice time and reach higher levels of performance.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Danny Holzman, Halo’s Business Partner Manager.
Alice Ferng, Medgadget: What’s come out of the partnership with Equinox and TRX? What additional applications are being explored? Are there any programs that have developed?
Danny Holzman, Business Partner Manager of Halo Neuroscience: Equinox has been using Halo Sport for the last year with their Tier X and E members (these are the top tier personal training that Equinox offers). The clients have the opportunity to use Halo with their trainers, typically working on specific goals (e.g. strength gains, mobility, skill acquisition). Clients have seen great results using Halo in their training. We’ve done some fun “neuroscience trainings” with the staff and clients where we give a short presentation on the brain and Halo and then take everyone through a guided workout together.
For the TRX partnership – we do more cross-promotional types of work together. We basically suggest that our customers try both products together, as both products are great tools to help people move better, gain strength, improve mobility, etc. We are currently working with them to develop trainings / warm-ups for using TRX during a Neuropriming session. More on that soon.
Medgadget: Are there any elite athletes that can speak to the updates in Halo Sport 2?
Mr. Holzman: USA Cycling athletes have had the opportunity to use Halo Sport 2, but mostly when we are on site to help out. Here is a video we just released on the work we’ve done with them.
Medgadget: Are there any recent studies conducted that have shown interesting results?
Mr. Holzman: Yes, there have been a few. Here are two peer-reviewed papers that just recently came out, both using Halo Sport, that you may find interesting. One is on an improvement in mean power output in a cycling task, and one is improving neck muscle strength and pain in a rehab protocol.
Another recent study is on improving running endurance. Here is a brief summary of the findings:
- Subjects completed a constant-load test involving running at a speed equivalent to 80% of their own maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) for as long as possible (VO2max was determined in their first visit to the lab)
- TTEs (time to exhaustion) were significantly longer after receiving tDCS (21.18 min) compared to sham (18.44 min; p = 0.011). This is 14.8%, or 2.74 minutes, longer.
You can head over to Halo’s website to try out neuropriming yourself, or read more scientific papers about using tDCS.
Product page: Halo Sport 2
Flashback: Halo Neuroscience’s Headset Zaps Your Brain To Train It