GOOD

The San Francisco Giants Think These Headphones Will Help Them Win

Halo Neuroscience claims their brain-stimulating headsets will make the team’s practices more effective

Anyone who’s played a sport has heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” If you spend hours in the gym shooting threes, you could become Steph Curry. Or play catch every single afternoon and you can become Corey Kluber. The San Francisco Giants think they’ve figured out a way to make their practices even more perfect: neurostimulation.

This season the Giants announced a partnership with the San Francisco-based tech company, Halo Neuroscience, after the team had some surprising findings while testing the company’s brain-stimulating headphones last year.


[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]There are electrodes that send out electrical pulses that stimulate the motor cortex.[/quote]

Every winter before spring training, the Giants run a conditioning camp for their top prospects. Last January, the Giants gave half of their prospects access to Halo’s headphones, known as Halo Sport, to use during warm-ups, and the other half got nothing. At the end of camp, the players who used Halo Sport improved their training and results more than those who did not. After looking at the results, the Giants decided to partner with Halo and begin incorporating Halo Sport throughout the organization.

Now, it might sound ridiculous that a pair of headphones could magically improve an athlete’s performance, but there’s plenty of evidence showing it’s true. We spoke to Halo Neuroscience CEO and Co-founder, Dr. Daniel Chao, to discuss the partnership, his company and how the heck a pair of headphones can make you better at sports.

How did Halo Neuroscience get started?

My co-founder, Brett Wingeier, and I worked at a company called NeuroPace, and we helped develop a neurostimulator to help treat people with epilepsy. Basically, it was a pacemaker for your brain. It may sound crazy to use electricity to treat this disease, but it actually works far better than any drug. Despite how well it worked, the rate of adoption was very low because patients needed to get electrodes surgically implanted in their brain, which is very invasiveness. So Brett and I started to think about how to use neurostimulation noninvasively, and we founded Halo Neuroscience to do so.

So how did your company create Halo Sport?

We started reading every properly controlled research trial on neurostimulation, and we noticed a credible pocket of data that we became excited about, and it had to do with stimulating the part of the brain called the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement in our bodies. We built our own device to replicate the studies, and we did it fairly easily. So we started thinking about who needs to move for a living, and that, naturally, led us to athletes.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]It's about building muscle memory faster[/quote]

We started doing testing in our lab in San Francisco on regular people, not necessarily athletes. We’ve tested Halo Sport on thousands of people by now. Then we took the technology into the field and started partnering with elite athletic organizations, such as the Michael Johnson Performance training center. When we got improved results with elite athletes, we believed that we had a real product.

How does the Halo Sport work?

Halo Sport is just a fancy marketing name for a motor cortex specific neurostimulator. When you put on Halo Sport, those special features underneath the headset naturally go over the motor cortex. Those features are actually electrodes that send out electrical pulses that stimulate the motor cortex. After a 20-minute neurostimulation, which we call neural priming, Halo Sport will induce a state of hyperlearning, known as hyperplasticity, in the motor cortex. We tell athletes to use the headphones 20 minutes before their workout while stretching and warming up. When the neural priming session ends, they start their athletic training session and begin feeding their brain with movement-based repetitions. For a basketball player, that can be shooting free throws or dribbling. For a baseball player, it can be throwing or fielding grounders. If athletes feed their brain deliberate and trained repetitions after neural priming, their brain will learn more in that training session than they would’ve without it.

To put it in more friendly language, it’s about building muscle memory faster. What makes Steph Curry or Madison Bumgarner better than other athletes and rise to the top? It’s that they learn more neurologically with the same amount of practice. All athletes train and put in hours of thankless work, and it’s largely repetition to encourage the brain to build muscle memory around these movements. So there’s something about Steph Curry’s brain that allows him to learn faster with the same amount of practice. We’re one of the first companies to take a deliberate neuroscience based approach to athletic training.

Image via Halo Neuroscience

Wouldn’t it be better if athletes wore the Halo sport throughout their entire workout and not just while warming up so their motor cortex is stimulated constantly?

Yes. What we want to do is maximize the overlap between this state of hyperlearning and the athletes doing training repetitions. This state of hyperlearning starts about five minutes into the neural stimulation session. So obviously, you should wear it throughout your workout to maximize the overlap between the hyperlearning state and the training session. But in the majority of sports training, wearing a headset isn’t very convenient. So for most athletes, warm up with it on for 20 minutes, you’ll still have plenty of time to feed the brain these training repetitions. You get a good hour of hyperlearning even after you take off the neural stimulator.

How did the partnership with the San Francisco Giants start?

You can imagine that a professional baseball team gets approached by companies like Halo multiple times a week, so the Giants have a system in place for testing technologies. Their training staff took an interest in Halo Sport back in 2015. The Giants run a conditioning program for their top minor league prospects for three weeks before spring training every year. The idea was to add Halo Sport into this training program. We split the prospects into two groups, one would get Halo Sport and the other would not. Both sets of athletes would do the same exact training, and we would test them before and after the three weeks. It was a nicely controlled experiment. We looked at the data at the end of the training program and it was very clear that the athletes who got Halo Sport did much better than the athletes that did not.

After the experiment, Geoff Head, the Giants head of sports science, and David Groeschner, the head of athletic training, took the results to the Giants CEO Larry Baer and the top of the Giants organization, and they approved a partnership. We have Halo Sport available in all Giants facilities, both major and minor league.

What does the future hold for Halo Neuroscience?

We see ourselves not as a sports performance company, but as a human performance company. There’s a lot we can do with Halo Sport beyond sports. As a doctor, I want to see Halo Sport being used for research and medical purposes. We actually have a clinical trial going on right now for stroke rehab using Halo neurostimulation. What if we could help someone with a stroke recover from their physical therapy at the same rate we can help Madison Bumgarner with his physical training?

Sports
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health