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Member of the USA Ski Team wearing Halo Sport during training.
Member of the USA Ski Team wearing Halo Sport during training. Screenshot

This year’s Olympics, though plagued with Zika news, has actually produced interesting technological advances. High-tech gear is helping athletes go faster and farther and also helping to protect them. Now, some athletes are turning to a pair of headphones to help them improve their skills through brain stimulation.

According to Engadget, an organization called Halo Neuroscience reported that it has worked with three American track and field athletes in training for the Rio Olympics. The company’s headphones, called Halo Sport, claim to stimulate the brain during training by sending pulses of energy that are meant to prime the athlete’s brain.

Halo Neuroscience, who has previously partnered with the United States Ski Team to help train Olympic ski jumpers, explains that these headphones help create a quasi-brain plasticity. What this means is that the pulses of energy increase the excitability of motor neurons, which allows for the creation of stronger neural connections. According to Halo Neuroscience’s website, these headphones enable “the motor cortex to send stronger, more synchronous signals to muscles” and enhance motor learning for the athlete, allowing them to make extra marginal gains with each exercise.

A case study promoted on the company’s website which was done by Halo Neuroscience and the USA ski team showed that on average skiers using the headphones saw a “a 13 percent improvement in propulsion force” while using the headphones compared to a control group that didn’t use the headphones at all. This study was small though, with just seven athletes studied.

Two more studies that respectively followed 10 and 23 athletes also produced positive results. The 10-athlete study showed a 12 percent gain in explosiveness compared to the baseline during lower-body training. In comparison, the control group saw a 5.2 percent gain. But to know for sure if these headphones make a significant difference, it will take even more studies that follow a larger group of athletes.

It’s no surprise that Halo Neuroscience made this announcement a week and a half before the Olympics start, and it’s even less surprising that the company has just opened its second wave of Halo Sport pre-sales.

With all skepticism aside, if neurostimulation does work as a supplement to physical, athletic training, it will surely be insane in the membrane.