NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Athletes are always looking for an edge — a better workout technique or device that will make them stronger, faster, or more explosive.
For some, that might mean using headphones that zap your brain while you train.
It sounds a little gruesome, but as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, the theory is to stimulate the brain’s ability to make new connections called neuro-plasticity, and to direct those changes to strengthen brain connections and muscles.
At least one pro team thinks it works.
San Francisco tech startup Halo Neuroscience is selling a set of headphones that offers the possibility of a better workout.
The Halo Sports headphones have a set of nibs that send a faint electrical charge into the motor cortex, the area of the brain that controls muscle reaction.
“So that it improves better, improves faster, and you get more benefit from hard, smart, quality training,” Brett Weingeier explained.
The electrical charge is supposed to increase brain plasticity by strengthening the connection between brain and muscle, and the body is said to learn to perform movements more easily.
The San Francisco Giants seem to think there’s something to it. They’ve been testing the technology with a farm team, and have made it available to big leaguers as well.
“I was highly skeptical that something so simple could actually change the way you behave,” Dr. Ted Zanto said.
Dr. Zanto, a neuroscientist at UCSF, said the idea of stimulating the brain with electrical current has been around for centuries, but recent studies are showing promise.
While the muscle reaction may only be improved by a few milliseconds, that may be enough for some athletes.
“If you’re trying to hit a baseball flying at 90 or 100 mph, every millisecond can matter, it can be the difference between a foul ball and a home run,” he said.
Elite athletes have been using the $750 headphones — trying to gain the elusive tiny edge of strength, speed, and explosiveness.
As for the rest of us, Halo only claims to improve workouts, not take the place of them.
If the research pans out, the technology has the potential to improve many fast motor activities from sports to learning to play music, but there is one downside for the less athletic.
“Noting comes for free. If you use it sitting on your couch, you just get better at sitting on your couch,” Weingeier said.
research to prove that the headphones really do improve performance is ongoing, but the technology has the potential to improve many fast motor activities from sports to learning to play music.
There’s also a placebo effect — if an athlete thinks it helps, his or her performance often improves.