by Lars Hundley
A few weeks ago, I came across a Facebook post about a product called Halo Sport that looked like a set of headphones that was purported to increase athletic performance and improve endurance. When I clicked through out of curiosity to read more about it, I saw that it had been used by USA Cycling, former pro cyclist Andrew Talansky, the US Ski Team, as well as several professional sports teams. I emailed the company to ask some questions about the device and how it worked.
Halo Neuroscience’s chief marketing officer, Mark Mastalir, who qualified as a runner for the Olympic Trials in 1992 and was also an All-American at Stanford in Track & Field, was kind enough to answer my questions.
First of all, what is Halo Sport? It looks like a set of headphones.
Halo Sport is the first-ever neurostimulation device used to accelerate gains from movement training. Users wear Halo Sport before any physical activity – from lifting weights to playing a musical instrument – to help their brain learn to better control and activate the muscles they need for that activity. When paired with physical training, Halo Sport can accelerate gains in skill, strength, and endurance.
Halo Sport works by applying a mild electrical field to the motor cortex – the part of the brain responsible for controlling movement – with a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS. This induces a temporary state of “hyperplasticity,” or hyperlearning where the brain is able to learn movement faster.
What is tDCS? Is it like shocking your brain with electricity? Is it really safe?
Halo Sport uses a neurostimulation technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). tDCS applies very low levels of constant electrical current to the brain area of interest via electrodes on the scalp. With Halo Sport, this current is delivered by gray foam pads (Primers) along the band of the headset. This causes an increase in activity in the motor cortex, and allows for more optimized signals from the brain to the muscles.
Halo Sport builds on decades of academic research surrounding tDCS and other types of non-invasive brain stimulation. In the Research section of our Science page, you will find our white papers (research done with Halo Sport) as well as links to many relevant peer-reviewed studies that speak to the efficacy and safety of Halo Sport’s technology. 4000 articles all speak to the excellent safety profile of tDCS. We’ve also tested Halo Sport on over 1400 healthy volunteers in our in-house studies. Most importantly, Halo Sport was built with medical-grade engineering and design controls.
Our engineers have put the headset through thorough risk analysis, quality assurance procedures, electronic testing, and mechanical testing to ensure that the headset is 100% safe for its users. You can learn more about the safety of Halo Sport from the safety panel in The Science section of our website by visiting haloneuro.com/science#safety.
What does it feel like when you’re using Halo Sport?
The response while using Halo Sport has been described as a mild tingling sensation. The user has control of the amplitude levels to ensure comfortability. Some athletes report more awareness of their body and a more “in-the-zone” state. Otherwise, athletes simply notice that they are making performance gains faster than they normally do.
I saw case studies on your site that mention both USA Cycling and the US Ski Team and other major organizations. I even saw a video with Andrew Talansky, the former cycling pro, who is using it to help train for his Ironman competitions. Are athletes really getting measurable results from using the Halo?
Absolutely. We’ve seen a number of our athletes increase their speed, strength, vertical leap, and more, by training with Halo Sport. You can read about all of our trials and case studies here. For example, we tested the US Ski team in a placebo controlled study as they prepared for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Ski jumpers improved their propulsion force by 13% over a control group in a 2-week period. They also achieved their performance goal 45% faster than the control group.
How would you use it as a cyclist? Do you only use it before a very specific training ride to get benefits? Or would you just use it before riding in general? What about before a race?
Neuropriming improves the rate that the brain learns new movement, allowing cyclists to more quickly hone technique. In addition to better form, biomechanical efficiency leads to improved endurance. There are also studies that indicate tDCS may improve endurance by increasing what’s known as “neural drive” – allowing your brain to stave off central fatigue and send stronger signals to your muscles for longer. In fact, a recent peer-reviewed study found that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) – the same technology built into Halo Sport – helped healthy, active people build cycling endurance by 23% over the control.
Halo works with world class cyclists including Ironman champion Tim O’Donnell, Tour de France finalist Andrew Talansky, and the USA Cycling National Team.
Most cyclists will use Halo Sport during their warm-up – e.g. sessions on the trainer. After completing the initial Neuropriming session, you can take off Halo Sport and you’re ready to ride – your brain will be in a hyperplastic state for 1 hour.
Is there a danger of making your bad habits worse if you use this before training? For example, creating a deeper muscle memory of bad form, or something like that.
Yes, Halo Sport accelerates learning, whether you are training with proper form or poor form. It’s always important to exercise good technique to ensure the brain encodes the right movement patterns – this is even more true when you’re training with Halo Sport.
Aside from improving endurance or strength training, is there anything else that people have successfully used Halo Sport for, where you can really measure and quantify benefits?
Yes! Halo Sport applies to all motor learning. In addition to athletes, we’ve worked with thousands of musicians, US military special operators, pilots, surgeons, artists, and more. Musicians in particular love it because of its application in improving fine motor skills. Check out this video with pianist Mario Marzo to see how he put Halo to the test in order to better understand and measure its impact.
About Halo Neuroscience
Halo Neuroscience is the creator of Halo Sport, the first-ever brain stimulator that can help anyone learn movement faster. Halo Sport utilizes Neuropriming technology to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for movement, accelerating training improvements in skill, strength, and endurance. Halo Sport is trusted by teams and athletes from the U.S. military, Olympics, USA Cycling, MLB, NFL and more. The company is based in San Francisco, California and backed by TPG, Andreessen Horowitz, Jazz Venture Partners, and Lux Capital. For more information, visit www.haloneuro.com.
About Mark Mastalir, CMO of Halo Neuroscience.
Mark Mastalir is an accomplished sales and marketing executive, having worked for global brands such as Nike, the NBA, and Wrigley, to small, entrepreneurial start-ups. He is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of Halo Neuroscience. He is also an avid runner, was an All-American at Stanford in Track & Field and an Olympic Trials qualifier in 1992. Mark earned a BA and MA from Stanford, and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School General Management Program.
Sounds like voodoo science. Are there independent studies somewhere?
Independant study, double blinded, with control and experimental grouos, with manuscripts submitted to a respected, perr-reviewed scientific journal, not just any/fringe, unknown journal.
Otherwise, it does sound like it’s a fun , joke style, expensive stocking stuffer xmas or hanukah present 😉
Terry Cowman says
I’ve experimented with this device for six months, once or twice per week, before riding on my indoor trainer. I can confirm several characteristics described in the article – the tingling sensation, feeling more ‘awake’ at the start of a training session, the perception of some additional power in the legs, a self-reminder to use proper cycling/pedaling form. With all of these attributes combined, I have tended to train harder earlier in the workout. This has in turn led to a slight improvement in my hour long sustained power – about 2%, or enough to be significant in a 40k TT.
The device itself is not easy to start. Making the connection with scalp is often difficult. Connecting the device with my iPhone can take several tries, usually involving a restart to the phone to connect. Using the device on an outdoor ride would be impractical at best, and impossible with a helmet. Using the device prior to a ride could work.