SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Brady and the Patriots demonstrated that grit, preparation and conditioning is critical, especially when 25 points down against the Falcons in the game of your life. Behind the scenes, another competition played out – pitting brain-training device NeuroTracker, used by the Falcons, against online app BrainHQ, used by Tom Brady and friends.
Brady acknowledged just before the Super Bowl that he has been using online brain training platform BrainHQ for three years. He noted that the exercises help him “stay sharp and make better split-second decisions on the field.”
BrainHQ is also used as core part of Tom Brady’s TB12 Method taught at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center in Foxboro, where Brady and other elite athletes from around the world train. The brain training Brady uses can be found at tb12.brainhq.com.
The Falcons have touted NeuroTracker in press reports dating back to 2014.
These days, elite athletes embrace the most advanced techniques involving physical exercise, recovery, and nutrition to condition their bodies for peak performance. As they look for a competitive edge, the attention of top athletes and trainers has just recently begun to turn to brain exercises for mental conditioning.
After all, a split-second advantage in processing and reacting to sensory information on the field can often be the difference between a win and a loss. And, yesterday’s game underscored the importance of mental toughness and conditioning.
NeuroTracker and BrainHQ are quite different. NeuroTracker uses a television-sized screen with 3-D glasses to engage in a multiple object tracking exercise. BrainHQ is a cloud-based platform, with 29 exercises designed to workout each major cognitive system of the brain, and can be accessed from computers, tablets and phones.
“What really differentiates BrainHQ is the science,” says Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the maker of BrainHQ. “Our global team of hundreds of scientists is led by Dr. Mike Merzenich, who recently won the highest honor in neuroscience, the Kavli Prize, for his discovery of brain plasticity and his application of plasticity to improve human performance. We’re really serious about the science.“
In fact, more than 140 peer-reviewed papers have been published on the benefits of the exercises and assessments in BrainHQ, across diverse populations.
Most athletes training with BrainHQ start with the visual speed of processing suite of exercises. It targets gains in visual attention, speed, search, acuity, multiple object tracking, useful field of view, peripheral vision, reaction time, visual working memory, decision-making, balance and movement. Those are common skills across sports. Other exercises are also often used to address other needs of athletes, for example, related to response inhibition, distractor suppression, memorizing plays, and interpersonal skills.
“We originally developed the exercises that became BrainHQ to help people improve all aspects of cognition, especially in populations facing challenges,” Dr. Mahncke said. “That required building a large number of exercises to address all the large systems of the brain, with really smart algorithms to automatically personalize each area based on ability – from impaired to top performers.”
“Over the past few years, more and more individual athletes and teams have found their way to BrainHQ,” Mahncke continued. “Most view it as giving them a competitive edge, so it’s especially gratifying that Tom Brady decided to share information about the importance of this type of training. I think it makes brain exercise aspirational, like physical exercise. Which it should be. And, like physical exercise, more is better.”