Vertical jump is one of the most universal physical skills, wouldn't it be great if we could train it faster? Well that is what we set out to do. Partnering with the US Olympic Ski Team, we added either tDCS or sham stimulation to their normal training routine, finding significant improvements in jump force and jump skill (how cleanly they jumped).
Before we could test vertical jump, we wanted to understand the effect on a smaller, more controllable scale. We chose finger pinch, specifically looking at rate of force development, a measure similar to the 0-60 time in a car. Its a measure of the amount of power available, and while we weren't training muscular strength, we can look at improving neural strength. Here we showed significant improvements in rate of force development with the addition of tDCS.
While raw power is important for athletic success, it is useless without coordination. In this study, we looked at whether adding tDCS could accelerate motor skill learning. Participants learned a piano chord task. practicing different chord configurations, and showed significant improvements in execution time.
In order for tDCS to be effective, you have to have a montage, or electrode configuration, that matches your goals. When designing a consumer device though, you cannot expect users to know where the hand knob is, or where Cz is according to the 10-20 system. Instead, we designed the electrodes and device to work as a pair of headphones, with simple instructions and a flexible design to ensure that the electrodes fell over the appropriate regions.In this study, we present the results of mechanical simulations, confirming the proper placement for over 98% of the head sizes found in the population.