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Visual cortex training: coming to a baseball team near you

Feb 17, 2014, 5:08 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 5.07.08 PM

This is fun. Some neuroscience researchers at UC Riverside had the UCR Highlanders baseball team take part in an experiment aimed at sharpening the way their visual cortex processes stimuli. Specifically, they looked at patterns on cards called Gabor patches, designed to increase vision and perception. The results were dramatic. From the research abstract, published in Current Biology:

We applied this training program to the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team and assessed benefits using standard eye-charts and batting statistics. Trained players showed improved vision after training, had decreased strike-outs, and created more runs; and even accounting for maturational gains, these additional runs may have led to an additional four to five team wins. These results demonstrate real world transferable benefits of a vision-training program based on perceptual learning principles.

The study is explained more generally at the L.A. Times.

The big caveat to all of this: the measurement of how much the team improved was based on sabermetric analysis of the team’s performance compared to performance from the previous year, with researchers finding that “the Highlanders’ improvements exceeded what would be expected from simply maturing and playing additional games.” My suspicion is that variation and uncertainty in any projection/prediction of how a baseball team does — especially a college team, which has way less of a body of data behind it than big league teams — is pretty great. Maybe there was marked and significant improvement. But how much is probably extremely wide open given how inexact a science baseball projections represent compared to your average neurological research data.

Still: intriguing. If time with some pattern recognition exercises is truly effective, might time in the batting cage be cut a few minutes each day?

  1. spudchukar - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    Cue up the “Green Acres”, goulash, and divorce jokes.

  2. NatsLady - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    I remember something similar from last year.

  3. cur'68 - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    The movies of this miracle advancement in science will be: “The Turbo-Stat-Nerd & Jeff Francoeur: The MVP Year”

  4. tfbuckfutter - Feb 17, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Little known fact – if you show A-Rod a picture, it doesn’t even matter if it’s an ink blot, just a picture of anything, he says “Wow, that looks just like a gorgeous picture of me.”

  5. raysfan1 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    “Still: intriguing. If time with some pattern recognition exercises is truly effective, might time in the batting cage be cut a few minutes each day?”

    No, because batting is fun.

  6. DJ MC - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    You know, I’m getting pretty tired of this! You can keep the five bucks!

  7. chad10 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    “Now, I want you to imagine…

    …you are on a ship at sea…

    …gently rocking.

    Gently rocking.”

  8. jpm557 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Are you, Craig, menstruating right now?

  9. botlecap - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Depends a bit on how well the team did that first year. If they were below average than the increase can almost be expected (normal regression to a mean). If the team was above average then the increase is very likely to be real (you’d normally expect a decrease in the next measured time period).

  10. doctorglen - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    I was a C student until Optometric Visual Training, pioneered by my father, treated and improved my accommodative (focus) and convergence (eye teaming) issues. I never would have been a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Dartmouth College without this therapy that effectively and non-invasively treats common learning-related visual disorders of accommodation, convergence, ocular motility and visual perception that are treatable by safe, effective therapies developed and documented over many decades by Doctors of Optometry. Doctors of Optometry are specifically trained, tested and licensed in all 50 states for their competence to deliver this kind of treatment. I invite you to utilize my book Refreshing Vision: Opening the Windows of the Soul. It contains step by step instructions for many of my favourite, simple home-based activities that helped me as a child. Please feel free to contact me through if you would like to explore potential strategies for vision enhancement.

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