Achieve Sporting Prowess with Foc.us Brain Stimulation
excellence is achieved through years of dedicated practice. Whether
you're trying to increase the curve on your free kicks or perfect
your golfing swing, you will spend hours repeating the actions over
and over again until you can execute them with the precision you
need. But we all know that it's not just your body that you need to
train. You also have to train your mind. It's your mind that controls
your bodily actions. And training your mind involves fine-tuning all
the pathways in your brain that control those actions.
time you practice your swing, your brain gets feedback on how well it
turned out. That feedback let's your brain make tiny adjustments in
the strength of connections between brain cells that in turn make
tweaks to the way you execute that swing. This means you are
strengthening the pathways that led to success and weakening the ones
when you're making these tiny adjustments that brain stimulation can
help. Stimulating your brain isn't going to let you suddenly bend it
like Beckham or wallop it like Bale. You're not going to suddenly hit
a hole-in-one when you've only just started playing golf a couple of
weeks ago. Don't believe anyone who tells you something like
that. But the evidence so far suggests that it can help you make
those small changes that have big effects.
way brain stimulation does this is by increasing what neuroscientists
call the plasticity
the connections between brain cells. Which – translated into
language you and I can understand – means your brain's ability to
do things slightly
the way it's done things so far; or in other words, it's ability to
ingrained, habitual, behaviour. As the tiny charges enter the brain
they come to rest on brain cells, including on the cells’ axons
that transmit messages. This alters the amounts of charge that
naturally resides on the axons and makes it either easier or more
difficult (depending on the type of charge applied) for the brain
cell to transmit messages along those axons. It also makes it easier
or more difficult for the brain cell to pick up a messages from other cells connected to it. The volume of messages a brain
cell sends out along its axons to other brain cells, and how many of
those messages are actually picked up, dictates how strong the
connections between brain cells become. The more the messages the
stronger the connections, the fewer the messages, the weaker
One way to think of this is that the added current randomly fuzzes up the established
connections between brain cells. Kind of like giving your brain cells
a bit of a shake. When you do this, they are more easily able to fall
in (and out) of a preferred pattern of connection. And when your
brain is primed like this, you are primed and ready to tweak
and fine-tune your performance. Which is exactly the state you want to be in when you want to
practice those sporting moves!
that's enough of the background. How do we do it?
Things you'll need
brain stimulation device
not going to get far without one of these! If you're not in the
market for research grade equipment (which could set you back
thousands of dollars), the next best thing is the Foc.us V2. It's
packed with features and supports both transcranial Direct Current
Stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation
(tACS), as well as less known protocols such as random noise
the Foc.us V2 is still too much for you, you can buy the Foc.us Go
Flow. This shares a lot of the circuity of the V2 but is limited to
Direct Current Stimulation. So it can actually do everything
that Halo headphones can do – except play music, of course. For
that, you'll need your Dr Dres – or whatever brand you prefer.
may want to start with the basics of the Go Flow and when you're a
more advanced user, ready for a fine-tuned approach to brain
stimulation (look for our future posts on that), you might consider
upgrading to the V2. In any case, for the purposes of the techniques
we're about to discuss, you only need Direct Current
Stimulation. So the Go Flow would do just fine.
and Head Fixture
are plenty of choices here. The Foc.us stimulator will work with
different types of electrodes, and Foc.us offers it's own versions.
You can choose sponge electrodes or sticky electrodes. The sponge
ones generally work better and unless you are going to place your
electrodes super accurately, you are better off sticking with a
Foc.us head band or cap. Regarding accuracy of placement, bear in
mind that the stimulation electrodes tend to be quite large. So
obsessing over millimetres isn't worth it. I'm not saying that
accurate placement isn't important, it is. But the truth is that no one really knows
exactly the arch of the current as it enters your brain. Scientists are still working it out. We have some
models, but their veracity is yet to be proved. What's more, ideal positioning will vary slightly from person to person. So the best thing is to carefully explore what's best for you.
Foc.us cap is by no means as accurate as a research-grade cap (Foc.us
are trying to improve that), but used carefully it will help place
electrodes accurately enough for the beginner.
other alternative is the Foc.us headband. This can be oriented in
different ways to get the electrodes in the right position. For some
montages, it works very well. For others it doesn't. And for what
we're describing here, you're really better off with a Foc.us cap or
something completely different like the many headstraps offered by other manufacturers or even something you might make at home.
accurate electrode placement becomes more important when you are
applying advanced protocols such as HD-tDCS (more on that in future
posts) where the electrodes and currents themselves are much smaller
exactly because the aim is to produce more controlled and targeted
to Stimulate Your Brain
going to describe a two stage process which uses only transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). In the training phase, you
will prime your motor cortex to learn and fine tune the actions
involved in your chosen sport, whether that's taking a penalty or
putting a golf ball. Then in the competition stage you will suppress
your brain's explicit conscious analysis so that you can more
instinctively perform the actions you learnt in the training phase.
This will involve two different brain stimulation protocols.
- Preparing your electrode before a stimulation session.
prepare your electrodes. Add about 9 grams of salt to about 100ml of
water and shake thoroughly until completely dissolved. Soak the
sponges in the solution. It's important to not over soak them. If
solution is dripping off the electrodes, then you've added too much.
Current flows through the saline solution, so if it leaks off, the
current will flow through a broader area than intended. Conversely,
do not under soak the sponges. You don't want the sponges to dry out
or have any dry patches; these may lead to skin burns. You want to
add as much water as the sponges will bear without excessive
dripping. Some dripping is inevitable if the sponges are squeezed.
But they shouldn't drip under mild pressure as you attach them to
placement, current and duration
anodal (+ve) electrode should be placed over the motor region of the
brain. The motor cortex is a thin band of neocortex that runs over
the top of your head, approximately from ear to ear.
you're using a Foc.us head band or cap it should be fairly easy to
place your anode in the right position – make sure that it sits
above your left ear and slightly toward the back your head. The image
below shows the motor strip in red.
you want to train your left-handed or left-footed swing or kick, this
should be the other way around (over right motor cortex). You place
your electrode on the opposite side because the right-hand side of
the body is controlled by the left motor cortex and vice versa.
the cathode on the shoulder opposite the anode. So if you want to
train right-hand or right-foot actions and your anode is over left
motor cortex, your cathode would go on your right shoulder; and if you want
to train left-hand or left-foot actions and your anode is over right
motor cortex, the cathode would go over your left shoulder.
your current to 1mA and stimulate for 20mins. It's important not to
go over time or over current. More is not necessarily better.
Research suggests that higher currents or longer durations can in some cases
have the reverse effect.
When to stimulate and how
These are still early days in brain stimulation, so stimulation protocols used in research vary. Some will stimulate just before training and some during. Which one of these two you choose might have an impact, but it is still unclear to what degree and the differences are likely to be small. So you'll be fine if you choose a protocol on practical grounds.
In any case, you should try to
leave as little time as possible between stimulation and doing your
training. The neural priming that results from applying current to
the brain lasts for some time, but will slowly dissipate at a rate
that is dependent on your environment and activity, as well as the
duration of the stimulation. Hence the need to take advantage of the
priming as quickly as possible after stimulation.
If you're practising your golf
putting, you could probably wear the headset during practice. On the
other hand, if you're engaging in a contact sport, such as rugby or
football, you might risk dislodging the headset and interrupting the
stimulation session. Interruption of the stimulation
session should be avoided. Don't fret about a few seconds here and
there, but it is important to get the right dose, as we've said.
training phase of stimulation can be repeated every few days. Some
studies have stimulated daily but it's still unknown what's optimal (or safe) and it may vary person to person or on the desired goal. We would
recommend it's best to leave 48 hours between stimulation
sessions for a good safety margin. This gives your brain a chance to
recover in just the same way as your body does after training.
– Electrode placement, current and
you are about to compete, all your learning is done and you just want
to get into that zone. You want suppress all distracting thoughts,
including those that monitor how well you're doing, and focus on
putting all your training into practice. With motor actions this
involves quietening your conscious chatter. Here's how you do it.
the cathode (-ve) over the left dorsolateral prefrontol cortex
(DLPFC) and the anode (+ve) over the right supraorbital region.
Under the 10-20 labelling system these positions are referred to as
F3 (cathode) and FP2 (anode). If you have a Foc.us 10-20 cap, the
positions will be marked. FP2 is on your forehead above your right
eye, but some distance from it. Don't put the electrode too close to
your eyes or you may experience some small white flashes called
phosphenes. These aren't particularly dangerous but can be uncomfortable
and alarming. If you place the electrode in the middle of the line
from the centre of your eyebrow to your hairline, it should be about
F3 is a little harder without the cap. It is situated over your left
temple slightly into the hairline and about an inch towards the top
of your head. Check here if you're
in doubt and watch the positions being marked.
should do the same because, unlike motor functions, the primary
region that consciously monitors the self and causes conscious
chatter is not dependent on handedness.
should be at 1.5mA for 15 minutes just before you compete. Again, you
should try to leave as short an interval as possible between
stimulation and competing.
just because your conscious self-monitoring is turned down a little,
doesn't mean you can't learn. As we all know, competing is one of the
best ways to improve! And in a similar way, some research has shown
that we can acquire and improve implicit learning
when we are in this state. If you're interested in reading more, you
can read this study.
Direct Current Stimulation is generally well tolerated by the
majority of people and despite hundreds of thousands of trials, very
few cases of adverse effects have been reported. But it's important
to remember that these trials were generally performed well within
conventional safety parameters and this caution may be the underlying
reason for so few cases of deleterious effects.
it's important to always follow good safety protocols. Don't combine
brain stimulation with any other drugs including alcohol. Avoid
strong painkillers and don't have too much coffee. If you're
particularly tired or likely to be in an unfamiliar situation,
administer it with caution. If you feel any discomfort or
disorientation at any time, discontinue the stimulation immediately -
don't tough it out to the end! It just doesn't work like that.
never suddenly pull off the electrodes. Depending on your equipment,
this can cause a sudden current spike. The correct thing to do is to
hit the safety switch on your stimulation device. With a V2, you can
just shake it. With the Go Flow, you can press the main rocker button at any time during a stimulation session and it will ramp down and shut off. If you're using
another manufacturer, check the instructions for a termination
switch. If it doesn't have this feature, I would recommend that you
use another brand.
products all come with a list of warnings which err on the side of
you're thinking of trying tDCS, you should at the very least read
these warning from scientists.
If you read that and think it sounds pretty uncategorical, you'd be
right. The truth is, as we've said, these are early days and no body
is completely sure about what tDCS does and how exactly it works.
There's a lot that scientist know, but there's a lot they don't and
there is a great deal of controversy within science itself. Watch out
for future post where I will try to make sense of what we really know
and what don't.
the meantime, it's worth remembering that people respond very
differently to tDCS. Some feel dramatic changes and some feel nothing
at all. Your mood, environment and even your level of caffeination
can change how you experience it. Always go slow and be safe.