“The mind is like an iceberg; it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water” – Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud’s theory was that the mind has three parts: the conscious (above the waterline), the preconscious (just below the waterline), and the subconscious (a long way below the waterline). He theorised that human behaviour and performance are simply the interaction of these three states of mind.
The Brain and Sports Performance
No one can deny that the human brain is an incredibly powerful tool. It is one of the greatest biological design feats in the known universe, and we still continue to develop our understanding of how the brain functions. Scientists are continuously exploring the powerful effects that the brain has on human performance, and how the central nervous system works to control muscular activation and patterning. Recent research at the University of Kent has found mild brain stimulation can increase activity in the regions associated with muscle contraction, decreasing perceptions of effort and increasing endurance in a cycling task. Clearly the human brain is a significant untapped resource for sports performance.
We realise that Artificial Intelligence is grabbing all of the headlines at the moment. Companies around the world are offering increasingly complex solutions to increasingly complex problems. Algorithms, AI and machine-learning augment our brain’s ability to process data, thereby condensing into a keystroke what might otherwise have taken hundreds of years for humans to calculate.
However, there remains one aspect of human performance that algorithms cannot realistically replace or augment at present: athletic performance. Despite the rapidly growing crossover of sport and tech through E-Sports, and constant advancements in Formula 1 and Formula E, the appeal of sport still lies in intense human vs human competition. Although tech continues to evolve sport and performance, we don’t see it ever replacing the human element.
Many manufacturers have started to explore incorporating “wearable tech” into their clothing. This is with a focus on collecting data so the athlete can attempt to learn, refine, and eventually improve their performance through data analysis. What wearable tech struggles to do is provide live tactile feedback to the athlete’s brain regarding their movement or skill execution, often relying on post-activity visual or audio methods. Sportswear manufacturers haven’t yet fully explored the potential of the human brain to achieve more without the assistance of “wearable tech”.
Proprioception in Sport
Take this example. If you close your eyes and wave your arms about, you will have a pretty good idea where your left wrist is in space. Your brain is able to collate and process a vast amount of information based purely on feedback from proprioceptors – sensory receptors located in the muscles, tendons, and skin. However, if someone else pinches your wrist while you are waving your arms around, your brain has a far better perception of where in space your wrist is located, because of the additional tactile information now provided from these receptors. The signals from these receptors are now more useful to the brain, allowing for greater control of movement, improved muscle activation, recruitment, and awareness. The brain’s ability to know where the body is in space, how it is moving, and being able to adjust accordingly, is the essence of proprioception. This ability to sense and adapt to the ever-changing environments, situations, and stimuli in sport is the essence of sporting performance.
An athlete’s training helps to improve the body’s proprioceptive function. The more highly developed our proprioceptive abilities, the more confident and powerful we feel during sport. All the best gymnasts are able to confidently and powerfully balance owing to their highly developed proprioceptive abilities, honed over thousands of hours of practice. The best cricketers are able to more effectively adapt their technique to a swinging ball or the pre-delivery movements of a batsman partly because of their heightened proprioception. The best rugby players are able to accelerate, decelerate, and cut more efficiently for the same reasons. Every sport involves proprioception, and the best athletes excel in this area.
How Exosuit Enhances Proprioception
What if an athlete could wear specialised clothing that enhanced the feedback from his body to his brain? The inevitable result is improved proprioception, confidence, and ultimately performance. We think that algorithms, AI and machine learning are the wrong vehicle to achieve this goal. At Exosuit, we believe that we can improve athletic performance simply by harnessing the power of proprioceptors in the skin, which feed into the subconscious brain.
Exosuit is exploring a completely new approach to sports performance through clothing: garments that interact with the human body to both support and harness the power of the subconscious brain.
Welcome to the final frontier in athletic performance: the use of specialised clothing to harness the brain’s power over the body. We think there is a really exciting horizon in the sportswear industry focused on proprioception. An Exosuit garment is not a medical device – it won’t miraculously heal injuries. But what it will do is enhance feedback to the subconscious brain. Using our patented flexible “skeleton” system Exosuit gently interacts with the skin at key anatomical sites, and better engages proprioceptors as the athlete moves. Ultimately this improves proprioception, awareness, confidence, and athletic performance.