Human Performance, Performance | Sep 26, 2019
In the second installment of our ongoing series, Optios shines a light on advanced neuroperformance technologies and brain imaging tools and how they make it possible to reshape and rewire the brain in targeted ways for the first time in human history.

An article brought to you in association with our Partners Optios:

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Optios, formerly known as the Platypus Institute is a pioneering leader in the field of maximizing elite-level sports performance based on neurocognitive assessments and has extensive experience working with coaches and athletes. For more information click here.

Advanced neuroperformance technologies and brain imaging tools of the 21st century make it possible to reshape and rewire the brain in targeted ways for the first time in human history. 

But the million-dollar question remains: How can athletes and coaches incorporate cutting-edge brain science into their daily routines in a practical way? The answer lies in utilizing personalized ‘applied neuroscience’ programs, which are rooted in billions of dollars and decades of military research that has been transferred into elite-level sports performance.  

Amy Kruse, Ph.D., is a thought leader and maverick within the global neuroscience community. Dr. Kruse is internationally recognized as a trailblazing visionary based on her decades-long experience working with the Department of Defense (DoD). She’s also credited with coining the term ‘operational neuroscience’ and popularizing the term ‘applied neuroscience.’

The burgeoning field of operational, applied neuroscience is at the heart of why many of the world’s most elite athletes and coaches today are turning to neuroscience. Sports teams, individual athletes, and coaches who have witnessed the brain-changing power of applied neuroscience realize that it results in profound improvements and winning results.

Instead of keeping her decades of knowledge about how the brain works confined to the world’s elite military units, Kruse’s current mission is to bring proven neuroperformance methods to other elite performers. Dr. Kruse is currently the Chief Scientific Officer at Optios. 

In 2001, Kruse moved to Washington, D.C., just a few months after 9/11. Moving to the United States capital — and her decision to join DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) in 2002 — was part of a mission focus to do something for her country. As she explains, “I said to myself, “How can I apply what I know about neuroscience — what we know — to improving the mission of the DoD? It was a rich space full of fantastically hard problems.”

As part of Dr. Kruse’s pioneering work with DARPA, she fine-tuned her ability to conduct neuroscientific research on human subjects in real-life circumstances. “I believe everyone is motivated by and interested in enhanced performance. Like my DoD and military colleagues — sports is ‘waking up’ to the role of neuroscience and cognitive brain performance in sports performance,” Kruse said in a recent interview. “So much of the excitement in this space is the opportunity to directly impact performance “on the field” — this time the playing field.” 

Over the past two decades, Kruse has parlayed her extensive fieldwork at DARPA into practical, easy-to-understand applications that optimize individual performance and teamwork in the civilian world among business leaders — and on basketball courts and playing fields for all types of professional sports teams. 

“Another motivating thing in sports is that there are so many parallels to what we have learned in the military,” Kruse said, “It would be ridiculous not to apply those learnings to this application space. in a way the mechanisms for achieving mastery in the brain are the same — even if some of the networks and stimuli change,”

In 2005, when neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to reshape and rewire itself was still a novel concept, Dr. Kruse began pinpointing specific ways to harness the brain’s plasticity to improve human performance. At the time, Kruse was Program Manager for DARPA’s performance-focused neuroscience research.

At DARPA, Kruse enlisted expert marksman to see what set them apart from first-time shooters. Using non-invasive brain imaging techniques, she was able to isolate how brain processing differed between the rookie and the pro. Then, she figured out how to hack into these neural networks and dramatically speed-up the learning process. 

In addition to her fascinating work with intelligence analysts, part of Kruse’s seminal research at DARPA demonstrated that, with biofeedback and brainwave analysis, it was possible to enhance military sniper’s performance dramatically and to train their brain to master these skills quickly.

Using neurofeedback, Dr. Kruse was also able to teach marksman of all levels how to get and stay “in the zone.” As part of her work with DARPA, Kruse began monitoring the brain activity and neurophysiology to deconstruct how elite-level submarine crews work together seamlessly in pressure-cooker situations. 

State-of-the-art neurocognitive and physiological assessments made it possible for Kruse to identify how a perfectly synchronized team gets on the same wavelength by monitoring their brain waves and heart rate variability (HRV). 

In 2016, Amy Kruse and David Bach happened to cross paths (on her birthday) when she was giving a talk at a neurotechnology conference and Optios was born. David Bach is a Harvard-trained medical doctor who has a passion for technology and is a serial entrepreneur. Prior to founding Optios, he launched three multi-million dollar healthcare companies.

When Bach learned about Kruse’s revolutionary work with applied neuroscience within the defense department, he saw an opportunity to transfer this wealth of knowledge and cutting-edge neuroperformance technology to the civilian population.

As she describes of their first encounter, “When David Bach approached me with what he was envisioning for Optios — I saw for the first time someone who understood business enough to make the dream of the applied neuroscience or neurotechnology industry come alive. With my scientific vision, connections and drive — paired with David’s experience and personal mission.”

Over the past few years, Amy Kruse and David Bach along with Tom Nugent, have built a practical and proven approach for professional athletes and coaches to apply their proprietary neuroperformance-technology to create a winning team.

“For decades, the focus has been on physical assessment and subjective character interviews to see if a player is a good fit, worth the investment,” Tom Nugent, who leads Optios’s Elite Performance Solutions division, said in a recent interview. “Using applied neuroscience, a coach can put data behind their hunches, understand why players are good at some things but struggle with others, and then train against that insight. No matter how you evaluate — the brain is the centerpiece that ties everything together.”

Nugent sums up the reason athletes and coaches are turning toward neuroscience: “From draft day to the farewell tour, neuroscience is the next untapped enhancement in the sports world that allows coaches and players to optimize potential, extend their career by offsetting cognitive decline, and become more resilient to injury through proven neuroperformance methods.”

For more on neuroscience, check out the first article in this series:

Headstart: Demonstrating the Value of Neurocognitive Assessments for Pro Athletes, Coaches & Scouts

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