Brain Stimulation May Improve Athletic Performance

European researchers have discovered that electrical brain stimulation can improve endurance and enhance athletic performance.

Investigators at the University of Kent believe their findings will help to advance the understanding of the brain’s role in endurance exercise.

In specific, the research will help scientists learn the way in which electrical stimulation can alter the physical limits of performance (endurance) in healthy people.

Investigators believe the study will enhance further debate on the use of legal methods to enhance performance in competition.

In the research, Dr. Lex Mauger and colleagues at Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (SSES), set out to investigate how endurance limits are a matter for the mind as well as the body.

Using a placebo controlled study, researchers tested cycling time to task failure (TTF) in a group of 12 active participants. In other words, how long an someone cycle given a standard resistance until failure.

In the trial, Dr. Mauger discovered that stimulating the brain by passing a mild electrical current (transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS) over the scalp to stimulate it increased the activity of the area associated with muscle contraction. This decreased perception of effort and increased the length of time participants could cycle for.

The team explained this is because the exercise felt less effortful following stimulation. tDCS has been used to enhance endurance performance but how it achieved this was previously unknown and this study has helped identify the mechanisms.

The study, “Bilateral extracephalic transcranial direct current stimulation improves endurance performance in healthy individuals,” appears in the journal Brain Stimulation.

Source: University of Kent/Eurekalert