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Neurotechnology for Olympians

Olympians train with neurotechnology to gain competitive edge

Some amongst them have opted for non-conventional means to increase their competitive edge. And no, this article has nothing to do with the doping scandal that is dominating the headlines.

A handful of Olympic athletes are looking to boost their chances with the help of a new "neurotechnology" wearable - a device, which looks like a pair of overly sized headphones, was first unvelied in February. According to the manufacturers website, the device "... uses pulses of energy to prime the brain, powering athletes' most effective workouts". They call this Neuropriming.

Neuropriming uses pulses of energy to signal the motor cortex, improving the brain's response to training, essentially putting the brain into a temporary state of 'hyperlearning'. When paired with workouts, it accelerates gains in strength, explosiveness, and dexterity.

Music is enhancing brain waves and improving Olympic wrestlers' performance

Music composed "specifically for the brain" might help Olympic wrestlers win their matches in Rio, according to another "neurotechnology" startup

A handful of published studies have found that it's possible to enhance particular brainwaves via rhythmic sounds piped into the brain at a particular point in a wave's natural cycle. Just as pushing a playground swing makes it soar higher only if the push is correctly timed, so amping up a brainwave succeeds only if the sound arrives at the right moment in the wave's cycle.

Scientists at Northwestern University recently reported enhancing brainwaves associated with sleep, something that might one day be used as a sleep aid, while a 2013 study found that entraining brainwaves enhanced sleep-related brainwaves in a way that improved short-term memory.

Neurotechnology claims tend to be light on evidence, and's are, well, optimistic. "There is a growing body of work on facilitating brain rhythms at certain frequencies by using sounds with the same frequencies," said Ken Paller, director of the cognitive neuroscience program at Northwestern University, whose lab studies the use of entrainment. But "why that [entrainment] could possibly help athletic performance, I don't know."

Some members of the US Olympic wrestling team are using "neurotechnology" to sleep better. "Reliable and adequate sleep is essential for recovery and overall performance."

One common thread runs through research on music and athletic performance: the most effective music is that which athletes find "motivational" and that they believe they chose themselves (even when researchers only fooled them into thinking they had done so). If's customers believe the sounds they hear have been scientifically matched to their brainwaves, and settle on music that they believe works for them, that belief could make it so. Through that placebo effect, the music could indeed improve sleep, focus, and even reaction times, motivation, alertness, confidence, and endurance - which might help wrestlers and other Olympians.

Music also works by "lowering perceptions of exertion and thereby increasing the amount of [exercise] performed," sports scientists at England's Brunel University wrote in a recent review.