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tDCS coming to an Equinox gym near you: Good, Bad or Depends?

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Brain-Zap­ping Work­out Tech Is Com­ing to an Equinox Near You (Giz­mo­do):

Ath­letes are gen­er­al­ly will­ing to enter­tain any sci­en­tif­ic-sound­ing trend that promis­es an edge. For ref­er­ence: Michael Phelps and cup­ping or Shaquille O’Neal’s ener­gy-enhanc­ing bracelets.

Which is prob­a­bly why Equinox jumped at the chance to offer Halo Neuroscience’s brain-zap­ping, sup­pos­ed­ly per­for­mance-enhanc­ing head­sets as part of its advanced per­son­al train­ing pro­gram at 22 of its fit­ness clubs around the U.S., begin­ning this month.

Halo’s head­sets employ a tech­nol­o­gy called tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion, or tDCS. The idea is to apply a mild elec­tri­cal cur­rent to the brain, result­ing, in this case, in improve­ments in an athlete’s phys­i­cal prowess…Now, with the Equinox part­ner­ship, Halo is bring­ing its $749 brain-zap­ping head­set to the masses…While many stud­ies do sup­port the idea that tCDS can have gen­uine effects on the brain, the sci­ence is still divid­ed on whether Halo’s prod­uct could real­ly work the way the com­pa­ny claims…

A review of research on tDCS and exer­cise per­for­mance from last year, for exam­ple, looked at 12 stud­ies on endurance and found that only eight had pos­i­tive results. Among the stud­ies that mon­i­tored peo­ple while they were actu­al­ly exer­cis­ing, those results were even lower…But even if it does work to improve ath­let­ic performance—which it very well might—there are still a whole lot of ques­tions to answer. For how long will the effects last? Does it work bet­ter for some kinds of sports than oth­ers? Is it as effec­tive as oth­er per­for­mance-enhanc­ing meth­ods, like say, sim­ply chang­ing up prac­tice rou­tines or diet?”

The Review Study:

The Ergogenic Effects of Tran­scra­nial Direct Cur­rent Stim­u­la­tion on Exer­cise Per­for­mance (Fron­tiers in Phys­i­ol­o­gy). From the abstract:

  • The phys­i­cal lim­its of the human per­for­mance have been the object of study for a con­sid­er­able time. Most of the research has focused on the loco­mo­tor mus­cles, lungs, and heart. As a con­se­quence, much of the con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture has ignored the impor­tance of the brain in the reg­u­la­tion of exer­cise per­for­mance. With the intro­duc­tion and devel­op­ment of new non-inva­sive devices, the knowl­edge regard­ing the behav­ior of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dur­ing exer­cise has advanced…there has been emerg­ing lit­er­a­ture demon­strat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty to influ­ence exer­cise out­comes in healthy peo­ple fol­low­ing stim­u­la­tion of spe­cif­ic brain areas. Specif­i­cal­ly, tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) has been recent­ly used pri­or to exer­cise in order to improve exer­cise per­for­mance under a wide range of exer­cise types. In this review arti­cle, we dis­cuss the evi­dence pro­vid­ed from exper­i­men­tal stud­ies involv­ing tDCS. The aim of this review is to pro­vide a crit­i­cal analy­sis of the exper­i­men­tal stud­ies inves­ti­gat­ing the appli­ca­tion of tDCS pri­or to exer­cise and how it influ­ences brain func­tion and per­for­mance. Final­ly, we pro­vide a crit­i­cal opin­ion of the usage of tDCS for exer­cise enhance­ment. This will con­se­quent­ly progress the cur­rent knowl­edge base regard­ing the effect of tDCS on exer­cise and pro­vides both a method­olog­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal foun­da­tion on which future research can be based.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Peak Performance, Professional Development, Technology

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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