Supercharging learning through neuroscience with the Halo Sport 2

The Halo Sport 2 is an advanced headset which can supercharge the process of learning through practical application of the latest insights from neuroscience

The Halo Sport 2 is an advanced headset that can supercharge the process of learning through practical application of the latest insights from neuroscience.

The Halo Sport 2 is developed by San Francisco-based human performance company Halo Neuroscience, which was founded in 2013 by two neuroscientists (an MD and a PhD) who had previously worked together at a successful deep brain stimulation company called NeuroPace.

The Halo Sport 2 is the latest iteration of the Halo Sport, a brain stimulator which accelerates muscle memory development and improves neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to form and reorganise synaptic connections especially in response to learning new activities). The Halo Sport 2 essentially increases brain neuroplasticity so users can create and strengthen motor pathways faster – a process which Halo Neuroscience calls “hyperplasticity” or “hyperlearning”.

Halo Sport is worn before or during physical training, and the device’s foam primers deliver a small amount of electrical stimulation to the brain’s motor cortex. This neurostimulation technique is called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which applies very low levels of constant electrical current to the brain (less current than would light up a typical tiny LED light). tDCS is a powerful way to affect the brain because electricity is the natural language that your neurons use to communicate. The more neurons fire together, the faster pathways are built in the brain.

When scientists say that a neuron “fires”, they mean that it releases an electrical impulse. This electrical impulse is converted into chemical neurotransmitters that can communicate information to other neurons. Since the Halo Sport 2 uses such a small amount of electricity, they don’t cause neurons to fire or “overclock the brain”, but rather, it’s like putting the brain in a plastic state, which makes the neurons more likely to fire together, where and when users want them to. In essence, by refining the brain’s ability to learn from and adapt to physical training, Halo Sport allows users to accelerate improvements in any physical skill.

“There is a certain sharpness, acuity and clarity of thought that comes with using the Halo Sport 2, while getting into the “flow” of learning also comes more easily”

The Halo Sport is backed by more than 15 years of research and 4,000 peer-reviewed papers, and the company is conducting a number of new studies with leading organisations to further unpack how brain stimulation improves performance and accelerates skill development in learning across a wide range of areas from music through to sports.

The US FDA has ruled the Halo Sport headphones as ‘general wellness’ devices, which are safe to use for healthy users. The Halo Sport 2 was built with medical-grade engineering and rigorous design controls, including safety mitigators which ensure the product is safe, even in unexpected situations. One of the most important safety mitigators ensures the Halo Sport 2 delivers the desired amount of electrical current to the brain. The Halo Sport 2 automatically monitors and controls both current and voltage, the force that drives the current through the scalp. If contact between the primers and the scalp is poor, and not enough current is being delivered, the device slowly ramps down the current and helps users adjust the headset to achieve better contact.  If unexpected current is detected for some reason, the Halo Sport 2 stops stimulation immediately.

What is the Halo Sport 2 like to use in practice? The build quality of the device itself feels solid and of high quality. The cups of the Halo Sport 2 are large and cover the entire ear, while the primers (which are technically electrodes) are flexible foam points which need to be wet (or “primed”) to ensure better conductivity through to the brain.

The Halo Sport 2 works through an app which is used to control the device and ensure it is working optimally. In the Halo Sport 2, Bluetooth audio is integrated for a wireless experience, and audio quality is in line with high-end headphones.

“The Halo Sport is currently in use by more 100 partners including teams, training facilities, universities, academic labs and thousands of customers around the world”

The experience of using the device takes a bit of getting used to, and in the “ramping up” process there is a mild and comfortable tingling felt throughout the skull. With more practice and use this sensation diminishes and it is possible to increase the intensity to more intense levels to deliver a stronger current to ideally increase neuroplasticity. In Halo’s own research the most common sensations users reported feeling during our neuro-priming sensations were tingling, improved concentration, and improved muscular control (5 per cent reported mild headaches, which Halo says it most likely a result of the headset’s pressure on the head, rather than the stimulation itself).

It is best to use the device about 20 minutes before learning or training commences, as well as during the actual process of learning or training. There is about a one-hour window from when the headset is first used which provides the most benefit in terms of improved neuroplasticity. There is a certain sharpness, acuity and clarity of thought that comes with using the device, while getting into the “flow” of learning also comes more easily. From a qualitative standpoint, the Halo Sport 2 definitely seems to increase learning and the process of acquiring and retaining new skills (Halo estimates that this process is increased by up to 50 per cent).

The Halo Sport is currently in use by more 100 partners including teams, training facilities, universities, academic labs and thousands of customers around the world. The Halo Sport 2 retails for US$599.95 and is available online.