I first heard the term "Mind-Muscle" in the gym. New studies revealed that focusing one's attention on the muscles being trained led to greater strength gains and hypertrophy - particularly in the upper body. This is a big thought for so many gym-goers who want to get the most out of their workout but are ultimately making their exercise less efficient by watching eight TVs while listening to a podcast.
Now it appears there is a new mind-muscle on the rise. Using technology known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), San Francisco-based Halo Neuroscience seeks to optimize the channels at which mind connects to muscle. The result: increased skill, strength and endurance.
The device itself is a trendy set of headphones with toothy spikes along the headband. These spikes produce the transcranial stimulation, which directly impact the area of the brain important for motor function (known as the motor cortex). This stimulation causes more neurons to fire together when performing a task and leads to a state of "hyperplasticity" where new, faster pathways are built in the brain.
As a result, a pianist learning a new solo will "neuroprime" her brain with the Halo Sport for 20 minutes and then play the piano with increased motor skill learning for the following hour. This results in learning to play the song faster and more adeptly than before.
All of this super fascinating and yet strangely familiar. Having traveled to China and studied Chinese medicine, I'm familiar with a style of acupuncture known as scalp acupuncture. This is a modern form of acupuncture where needles are inserted subcutaneously over specific lines on the head. Once inserted, these needles are stimulated with rapid twisting motions or a low frequency electrical current.
In China, traditional medicine is big for stroke recovery and the efficacy of scalp acupuncture plays a huge role there. I personally have seen the impressive effects of scalp acupuncture and am confident in recommending it to others, especially those who recently suffered a stroke. (Halo Neuroscience even posts this research showing that tDCS benefits stroke recovery).
So what's interesting is to see how Halo Neuroscience uses this new neurotech to stimulate the brain in a way that's similar to modern Chinese acupuncturists (stimulation with movement are both necessary for the effect), while at the same time, go beyond the therapeutic and into the commercial/fitness arena.
Ultimately I think that devices such as the Halo Sport show us a glimpse of what's to come in regards to neurotech devices. There's no doubt that in the next five to ten years we will see huge commercial and medical developments in this field which will greatly impact how we learn, work, exercise, and meditate.