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Thursday, June 1, 2017
The neuroscience of movement
The neuroscience of movement
One of the key brain areas that controls body movement is called the motor cortex. This area is located across the top of your head, spanning from ear to ear. Your motor cortex controls your muscles by sending electrical signals from its neurons to targeted groups of muscle fibers, causing them to contract. By combining these muscle contractions, your brain causes your body to move.
Movement is complex: each time your body moves, there are tens of thousands of neurons sending electrical signals. Whether you're training for a marathon, learning a new piano piece, or working on your vertical, your brain needs to refine how it tells your muscles to make the complex movements required. The brain's unique ability to fine-tune itself—called plasticity—allows it to do just that.
Plasticity means your brain can strengthen existing connections between neurons and even form new functional pathways. Through this process, you progress from the raw, unrefined movements of a novice to the powerful, precise movements of an expert.
Optimizing your motor cortex helps your muscles perform better in a number of ways.
Coordination and technique
Coordination and technique rely on the motor cortex to send signals to the correct muscles and parts of muscles in the correct order. Through plasticity, your brain is able to ensure that your neurons are working together for a precise result, like playing an instrument, sinking a putt, or leaping a hurdle.
Endurance relies on the motor cortex to repeat an action for an extended period of time. Each time you take a step, swim a stroke, or pedal a bike, your brain and your muscles consume energy. Via plasticity, your training leads to more efficient movements, reducing the energy cost of each action and allowing you to endure for a longer period of time.
Strength relies on the motor cortex to ensure that your muscle fibers are contracting together and not competing with each other. Powerful output requires the coordination of the many thousands of neurons that activate a group of primary and synergist muscles. With plasticity, the brain learns to contract more useful muscle fibers and relax opposing fibers, allowing you to lift more.
Explosiveness relies on muscle fibers contracting together. Whether firing out of the starting blocks or leaping in the air to block a shot, your body relies on your brain to trigger explosive movement. Through plasticity, your motor cortex learns to send more synchronous electrical signals, causing muscle fibers to contract in unison. Acting together, these muscle fibers can generate force faster and contract faster, which means more explosive movement.
Halo Sport is designed to make your training or practice more efficient by improving your brain's natural plasticity. By applying a mild electric field to the motor cortex, Halo's Neuropriming technology induces a state of "hyperplasticity." When you train in a hyperplastic state, the brain's normal fine-tuning process occurs more rapidly — meaning better results from each practice rep.
To understand how Halo Sport achieves these benefits, it's important to understand how neurons communicate with each other. This graph demonstrates what a neuron does when it sends a signal. The grey line is a non-primed neuron — it starts at a baseline, and stays there, not sending any signals until it starts to receive information from other neurons (the first bump). Over time, signals come in from other neurons and the line rises. If the neuron receives enough input within a short period of time, it crosses an electrical threshold and sends a signal called an action potential. This is how neurons communicate with each other.
The green line represents a neuron primed for hyperplasticity, with an elevated starting point. Similar to the unprimed neuron above, as signals come in, the line again rises until it reaches the electrical threshold and fires an action potential. The difference is that it now takes less input to trigger the neuron to send a signal. This means that more signals will be sent for a constant amount of input, and — even more importantly — nearby neurons will be more likely to fire together. Because plasticity is driven by neurons firing together as they send and receive signals, this leads to hyperplasticity — better, faster fine-tuning of your brain's neuronal connections.