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Not everyone is born with the physical gifts of a LeBron James or an Odell Beckham Jr. But it’s every athlete’s job to maximize his or her potential by training harder and smarter than the competition. Having built a career around using electricity to interact with the brain, Daniel Chao, CEO of Halo Neuroscience, has come up with a product that allows every athlete to tap into their own “harder and smarter.”
The idea of neurostimulation has been of major interest to Chao and co-founder Brett Wingeier. “If we could use electricity to neuromodulate for treatment of diseases or to help otherwise healthy people get more out of their brain, that would be a transformative product,” Chao said.
While it is mainly athletes who use the product, Chao says that sports weren’t necessarily the initial target when they began their work with neuroscience and neurostimulation. “How we got to sports, and how this conversation is even happening,” Chao said, “it really was the data that led us here into an application in sports.”
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The application in sports led them to designing a product called Halo Sport. Halo Sport is a headset that stimulates a special part of the brain called the motor cortex, which is responsible for controlling movement in our bodies. “If you stimulated the motor cortex and we paired that with movement based training, we would see dramatically accelerated results over a control group,” Chao said.
TJ Carrie, a cornerback for the Oakland Raiders, has seen these dramatic results in the form of concrete data. Carrie underwent two open-heart surgeries while in high school and wasn’t allowed to play football because of it. Eventually, he was able to play just enough his senior year to earn a spot on the football team at Ohio University. After leaving Ohio in 2013, Carrie participated in the NFL combine and was drafted in the seventh round by the Raiders.
Now Carrie is in the midst of his third season with the Raiders and is playing well thanks in part to his use of Halo Sport during off-season training. “He’s a guy we love to work with, he had an incredible off-season,” Chao said. “He got another seven inches on his vertical and added another 90 pounds to his squat max.”
Given the quantitative nature of the product, Halo has started working with college football players who have declared for the NFL draft. Since the combine is all about numbers, Halo Sport gives the athletes data to prove the worth of its product.
Athletes like Carrie usually pair Halo Sport with bodyweight and plyometric training. According to Chao, if you’re having a strength-training day and get to the gym a few minutes early to stretch, it’s best to put on Halo Sport during the warmup period. “Twenty minutes of neurostimulation buys you an hour of hyper-learning,” he said.
If you’re an athlete who usually listens to music during a warm up, the Halo Sport headset allows for that as well. Once you finish your warm up and you’re stretched, your neurostimulation is done and you can attack your training. The neurostimulation is designed to help an athlete get more out of each repetition. “What we see as fans is really elegant movements, but as an athlete you appreciate that to generate elegant maneuvers, it’s incredibly violent and explosive,” Chao said.
Chao says that any activity requiring fine motor control would be applicable. This means that golfers, basketball players, baseball players and musicians would find a use as well. “You could imagine for a violinist or pianist, it could help with the technical aspect of what they’re doing,” Chao said.
Along with helping athletes, Halo is hoping to help stroke victims with their physical therapy in an effort to speed up the rehabilitation process.