The next frontier for reaching peak wellness is the brain. People are turning to brain-augmenting helmets for improved energy, performance and mental state.
Picture being trussed up to a headpiece full of LED transmitters, each emitting different wavelengths of light to target specific areas of the brain. It might sound like an ominous concept straight out of a Black Mirror episode, but brain photobiomodulation has been shown to dramatically accelerate the process of cellular recovery. In particular, it’s proven to treat traumatic brain injuries, depression and anxiety, and cognitive performance.
The SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain, launched the therapeutic treatment in 2018, after developing it in tandem with NASA and Harvard University. Effects are noticeable after a single 30-45 minute session, although five are recommended for the most intense impact. A session is powerful, yet requires little effort on the part of the participant. While donning the helmet, a patient can even perform other activities such as reading or watching television.
Precise areas of the brain to activate healing
But what’s the science behind it? It’s already common knowledge that light is vital for growth, positive mental state and enhanced energy. The helmet’s technology replicates these effects of natural light in a controlled way, using an innovative LED system that can pinpoint precise areas of the brain to activate healing in those regions.
“It causes an increase in the oxygenation of brain cells, stimulating and repairing their cellular synthesis, which leads to a general increase in energy,” says Dr Bruno Ribeiro, a specialist in the clinic’s Cognitive Empowerment Unit.
One of the only places in the world to offer the futuristic therapy, the SHA Wellness Clinic has seen a remarkable increase in the number of patients visiting its retreats seeking this treatment in particular. “Nowadays, we live in a very competitive and stressful world. We constantly need to give the best of ourselves,” explains Dr Ribeiro. “Also, people are living longer, but not always in the best conditions – perhaps struggling with poor nutrition, stress and lack of exercise, for example. Our patients come here wondering how they can age, yet with a brain that is still functioning at its maximum ability.”
A stress-management tool
And it’s not only high-powered executives or hardcore athletes that are escaping to the clinic’s cutting-edge retreats for honed performance. “We’re dealing with such varied scenarios; from students who need help to achieve their maximum capabilities, to business people who need to manage their stress,” says Dr Ribeiro.
Meanwhile, those unable to spare the time or money for a brain-overhaul retreat can opt for a quick fix as part of their regular workout. Luxury gym Equinox – with locations across London and the US – now offers members 20-min sessions with its unique Halo Sport headset.
Used before a fitness session, the neuropriming headphones send performance-amping electrical signals directly to the motor cortex. The tech fast-tracks the brain into a hyperplastic state, meaning it’s more able to accept new movement patterns and strengthen existing ones – according to research done by the fitness provider. This in turn results in boosted endurance and strength.
The time to bid farewell to pre-workout protein shakes, revision techniques and meditation apps may well be approaching. In today’s ongoing quest for best-self status, there’s only so much that diligent exercising, revising or meditating can achieve before we realise a brain-boosting helmet might just offer the ultimate shortcut to success.
Words: Kate Johnson