Halo Neuroscience officially launched their flagship product, the Halo Sport on November the 17th. For those gamers out there, no, Halo Neurosceience are not related to Halo the game, even if the Halo Sport looks like it might resemble something from the game!
Halo Sport uses Neuropriming (a term they’ve coined) to stimulate the brain’s motor cortex, and in short is designed to improve sports performance. Neuropriming is tDCS, or transcranial direct-current stimulation – which in simple terms is using a small electric current via electrodes on the scalp to stimulate specific areas in the brain.
tDCS brain hacking has for a long time been the territory of clinical labs or DIY hardcore biohackers who share their experience and learn from each other – there is even a subreddit on the topic. We love how Halo Neuroscience has done their own clinical research and brought a product to market and opened the technology to the mainstream in a safe and consistent way.
How Does Halo Sport Work?
Halo Sports sends small electric currents, stimulating the brains motor cortex which in turn increases neuroplasticity – in Halo’s own words: “accelerates the optimization of neuromuscular circuitry through training. Improved neuromuscular output leads to more precise, coordinated, and/or explosive movement — whichever the athlete targets during training.”
Nick Davis, a senior lecturer in psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University who has extensively studied tDCS says, “For reasons we don’t really understand, brain cells that are near the positive electrode become a bit more active, and when a brain area is more active, it tends to be more plastic. This is called neuroplasticity, and it relates to the ability to learn things; there is evidence that simple motor actions are learned more readily when they’re done with positive stimulation.”
tDCS is not new with over 2,000 research papers on the subject over decades, however there have been mixed reviews on the technology in general. So in the name of science I decided to zap my brain and see what happened…
You’re probably wondering does the Halo Sport headset actually work and what’s the experience like? Personally I was super excited and curious as to what these brain zaps felt like, and if there were any actual improvements to performance. So keen in fact, the testing started before doing an actual workout in hope that they might help with focus and work at the time, unfortunately they didn’t!
The directions state to wear the headset and complete a 20 minute neuropriming session before you complete the most intense part of your physical work out, and Halo Sport does not need to be worn during your actual workout. Setting up the primers (the grey electrodes) ready for the priming session can be tricky, they don’t play nice with long hair, and even with short hair can be challenging to get sufficient conductivity to start the session.
The first step is to download the app, then wet the primers with water (otherwise you won’t get any electric current conducting through your scull) – then let the neuropriming run for 20 minutes. Halo Neuroscience claims you will fell a “light tingle” on your head due to the electric current, personally this felt like more of a sting than a “light tingle” – but it wasn’t unbearable. My girlfriend could not be persuaded to use them yet, for some reason the idea of light electric shocks transmitted into her brain does not seem to sit well with her.
My workouts usually consist one of the following: F45 (HIIT), 5-10km runs, or stair sprints. So far I’ve only tested the Halo Sports prior to an F45 workout, and I’ve tested in a total of 6 separate F45 sessions. The results? I did not feel immediately different after the neuropriming session, however what I noticed within 2-3 minutes of starting each workout is that I had more energy (not caffeine-like energy, but muscle explosiveness energy), less fatigue (in the first 20 minutes), and increased strength.
The easiest quantifiable improvement was for most exercises I was able to consistently take one step up in weight (10-20% increase in weight) than usual, and the less quantifiable results were increased endurance during the first 20 minutes of each workout and increased calories burnt/higher maintained heart rate throughout the sessions (when comparing to similar workouts).
Keep in mind these are intense and varying workouts (no one F45 session is identical), so there are many external factors which can impact training – such as sleep, diet, or fatigue.
A few things I noticed while using the Halo Sport:
- The real energy and improvements seemed to last for about 20 minutes and then seemed to taper off, which means I would push myself very hard for the first 20 minutes and then in the last 20 minutes my energy would drop off significantly. I’m not sure if was due to the neuropriming benefits wearing off, or due to pushing myself too hard due to the benefits in the first 20 minutes and causing me to fatigue.
- When listening to music on the headphones I noticed the sound quality was average (my expectations are fairly high), however this is to be expected considering their primary function is not headphones. Halo Sport comes with two earpads, the acoustically-transparent (installed by default), and the standard earpads. The acoustically-transparent earpads are designed when you need to hear your surroundings (i.e. playing sport/team training) and understandably have a lot lower sound quality, and the standard ones which have significantly improved sound quality (especially bass).
- Some fine tuning is still required on how the headset physically sits on your head as well as ensuring people who have a lot of hair can easily use them (using lot’s of water on the primers does help with this, but can still be challenging from time to time).
Is the Halo Sport worth the US$749 retail price tag? If you’re looking for that extra edge, and you exercise regularly or play competitive sports then I definitely think they give more value than you are paying for. If you don’t match this criteria, then US$749 is a lot to pay for occasional use (and the main reason they are targeting professional athletes at this stage I suspect). Overall I’m fairly happy with my purchase, and excited to find out the long term impact to using Halo Sport.
Halo’s True Future
What gets me even more excited is the applications past professional sports & exercise, tDCS (aka. neuropriming) has been shown in clinical settings to improve memory, learning, and intelligence. So I imagine Halo Neuroscience will release products targeted towards different applications in future, and we could actually see a similar device used to improve memory, learning, and intelligence!
Note: This article has been updated after Halo reached out with a few tips on how to use Halo Sport more effectively.