A first in the world of motorsports, Nissan Brain to Performance uses advanced brain imaging and analysis to determine the anatomical specifics of high-performance, professional drivers. The program aims to develop bespoke, optimized training to enhance brain functions and anatomy related to driving and racing.
Nissan aims to bring its expertise in transferring knowledge and technology between the racetrack and road for better electric vehicles for customers. In the future, perhaps brain-computer interface training can be used to enhance general driving skills, with a longer-term goal to inform and enhance future Nissan EV product development, as well as an aim to achieve the highest level of driver excitement and focus.
Nissan Brain to Performance is an exciting and cutting-edge program that uses advanced brain imaging and analysis to determine the anatomical specifics of high-performance, professional drivers’ brains. We have been working on this project for the past two seasons, enabling us to create bespoke brain training programs for our drivers, developed to enhance brain performance in the search for greater performance on Formula E circuits around the world. In the future, cutting-edge research could potentially help improve the driving skills of the average driver and inform the development of Nissan’s road EVs.
The pioneering program, aimed at improving driver performance, was tested for the first time at the New York City E-Prix in Season 8. Now in Season 9, the drivers continue to use specific training programs.
The research team led by Nissan’s UX Innovation Senior Manager Dr Lucian Gheorghe completed the extensive testing phase with Season 8 Nissan Formula E drivers, Sébastien Buemi and Maximilian Günther.
The sessions held at the University of Essex in the UK and the Campus Bio-Tech in Geneva, Switzerland, involved detailed analysis and testing of the Formula E drivers’ brain functions, compared against a control group of ‘average’, non-professional drivers. They all performed a range of tasks on state-of-the-art driving simulators while their brain activity was monitored and recorded.
Participants were split into two groups and tested on a professional racing simulator, driving a racetrack they had not seen before over 10 sessions. One group was stimulated with a transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) device, which is a form of neuromodulation that uses constant, low direct current delivered via electrodes on the head, while the other group wore the device but was not stimulated.
The brain-stimulated group learned the racetrack 50 percent faster than the unstimulated control group.
Retention of the acquired skill was 22 percent better for the brain-stimulation
The brain-stimulated group improved their simulator vehicle control 50 percent faster than the unstimulated control group.
Formula E 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.
“Nissan prides itself on daring to do what others don’t. Over the past two seasons, we have been working hard to establish what it is that makes professional drivers’ brains better than non-professional drivers and now we have reached an important milestone in the Brain to Performance program.”
Tommaso Volpe, Nissan Formula E Managing Director and Team Principal
After analysing the data and understanding the drivers' brain activity at varying skill levels, Nissan developed a bespoke Driver Training Program involving several training protocols. The team tested these at various driver simulator days and races for the remainder of Season 8.
The first of the training protocols developed in collaboration with WaveNeuro, aims at helping Nissan Formula E drivers to concentrate faster and more easily for longer periods of time. The training involves using a transcranial magnetic stimulation (tMS) device prior to simulator training and racetrack activity for set periods of time. This non-invasive neurostimulation technology should achieve faster alpha band connectivity and more stability, putting the brain into an easy-to-concentrate, easy-to-perform state.
The second protocol involves using a tDCS device tuned for Nissan by PlatoScience, which aims to increase attention levels during longer, intense sessions. If the drivers can use the device at several intervals throughout the race weekend, especially over a weekend where heat and jetlag can play a significant factor in a driver’s performance – then perhaps it can help them focus more efficiently.
Our two drivers Sacha Fenestraz and Norman Nato along with sim driver Luca Ghiotto have been working with Dr Lucian Gheorghe, to develop a personalised training plan for the season. All three drivers use equipment from WaveNeuro Science - The Sonal device, which uses cutting-edge, non-invasive technology that reshapes your brainwaves to effectively improve brain health.
Key areas the training targets:
Faster, more reliable decision making
Alongside the driver training program, our research will continue with the support of braincredible and The University of Texas Neurology Department, updates on the research team’s findings will be announced later in Season 9.
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.
In 2022, the research team led by Nissan’s UX Innovation Senior Manager Dr Lucian Gheorghe completed the extensive testing phase with Nissan Formula E drivers, Sébastien Buemi and Maximilian Günther. The sessions were held at the University of Essex in the UK and the Campus Bio-Tech in Geneva, Switzerland. These involved detailed analysis and testing of the Formula E drivers’ brain functions, compared against a control group of ‘average’, non-professional drivers. They all performed a range of tasks on state-of-the-art driving simulators while their brain activity was monitored and recorded.
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.