Nissan Brain to Performance is an exciting and cutting-edge, innovative program that uses advanced brain imaging and analysis to determine the anatomical specifics of high performance, professional drivers’ brains. The drivers’ brains are mapped, and a bespoke driver training program is developed to enhance driver brain performance.
In October 2023, Nissan revealed the results of its driver training program which show how brain training protocols can successfully improve the cognitive functions of Nissan Formula E Team drivers. The data indicates that racing drivers who participated in the training program experienced enhancements in complex decision-making, stress and fatigue resilience, and quicker reaction times. These improvements can help reduce on-track errors and maximize drivers' pace and consistency. Further training could enable the Nissan Formula E Team drivers to reach the maximum potential of their brains in terms of clarity, which relates to their ability to perform in high-pressure environments, and speed, measuring how quickly they can process information.
Nissan Formula E Team plans to fully integrate these brain training protocols into its drivers' overall training programs from Season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. The knowledge gained from both the research and application stages could also be applied to the wider NISMO family beyond Formula E, including drivers in the Japanese Super GT series. In the future, the cutting-edge research could potentially help improve the driving skills of the average driver and inform the development of Nissan’s electric vehicles.
When Nissan Brain to Performance was launched at the end of Season 7 (2020/21) of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship campaign, Nissan Formula E Team together with Nissan's UX Innovation Senior Manager, Dr. Lucian Gheorghe, outlined three key research areas: comparing racing drivers’ brain functions to those of everyday drivers, evaluating the link between electrical brain stimulation and on-track performance, and assessing the potential for this technology to enhance general driving skills outside of racing.
In Season 8, the research phase of the Brain to Performance project was initiated. As part of this research, two control groups were formed – one that underwent brain stimulation and one that did not. Non-professional drivers in these groups participated in testing sessions on race simulators at the University of Essex and the Geneva-based Campus Biotech. They completed 10 sessions on a track they had not seen before, and the final findings revealed:
· Brain-stimulated group learned the racetrack 50% faster than the unstimulated control group.
· Brain-stimulated group improved their simulator vehicle control 50% faster than the unstimulated control group.
· Retention of the acquired skill was 22% better for the brain-stimulation group.
· Nissan Formula E Team drivers have significantly larger portions of visual and motor control areas as well as partially larger thalamus than average drivers. This correlates with high visuo-motor skills, increased overall brain coordination and biological status awareness.
Following these results, in Season 9 Dr. Gheorghe collaborated with US-based technology partner Wave Neuro to develop a comprehensive bespoke driver training program for the Nissan Formula E Team drivers.
The training involved the Nissan Formula E Team drivers undergoing baseline neuro scans using an EEG device. With the data collected, Dr. Gheorghe, with support from the University of Texas at Austin and the scientists at Wave Neuro, created tailored training programs utilizing a brain-stimulating Sonal device.
This device uses certain frequencies to target specific areas of the brain, aimed at helping with jet lag and sleep deprivation, improving reaction times, and minimizing human error, especially in high-pressure environments.
Wave Neuro has previous experience employing these training protocols alongside the United States military to aid individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They have also worked with professional American football players who have experienced brain injuries. Both Dr. Erik Won, President & Chief Medical Officer of Wave Neuro, and Dr. Gheorghe recognized the potential to integrate this into a performance-based training program. They collaborated to create these customized protocols for the Nissan Formula E Team drivers.
“It is thrilling to be pioneers in this area of research within the world of motorsport. Nissan prides itself on daring to do what others don't. Over the past three Formula E seasons, we have been diligently working to understand what sets professional drivers' brains apart from non-professional drivers, and how we can use this information to enhance driver performance on the track.
“The results following the training program are extremely exciting and demonstrate that with the right tools we can help our drivers reach their full potential. With the integration of the Brain to Performance program to Nissan Formula E Team from Season 10, we are eagerly anticipating how this program will continue to evolve for the drivers, the team, and Nissan more widely.”
Tommaso Volpe, Nissan Formula E Managing Director and Team Principal
After using the Sonal device throughout Season 9, a final scan was conducted to assess its impact on their cognitive functions. Improvements in both brain speed and clarity supported the research hypothesis, and it was concluded that further training with this device over an extended period could assist drivers in optimizing their performances.
Nissan aims to leverage its expertise in transferring knowledge and technology between the racetrack and the road to enhance the electric vehicle experience for its customers. Together with the University of Texas at Austin, Nissan is exploring how this technology could continue to evolve and be integrated into Nissan dealerships. More specifically, how the brain computer interface-based training could be designed to assist customers improving their driving skills quicker. Nissan Formula E Team continues to focus on achieving the highest level of excitement for its drivers by being able to fully exploit Nissan’s electric vehicle potential. As the research continues to develop, the more we know and the more we can apply the findings in creative and exciting ways.
braincredible SA is a neurotech start-up located in Sion. The company is a subsidiary of the ANT Neuro group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electroencephalography (EEG) equipment. They provide neuroscience-as-a-service to create new neurotechnology, collect big EEG data and build brain models for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning approaches. The core technology distributed by braincredible is based on more than two decades of neurotech experience by ANT Neuro and its subsidiaries and has been used in a wide range of applications in cognitive neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry.
Wave Neuro develops personalized and pioneering Braincare™ technologies that allow people to reach their brain's peak performance through cutting-edge neuromodulation. Sonal devices are currently used by Nissan Formula E Drivers.