Visual cortex training: coming to a baseball team near you

10 Comments

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?

Video: Corey Dickerson breaks scoreless tie with walk-off home run

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Neither the Pirates nor the Tigers could manage any offense during Thursday afternoon’s game at PNC Park. That is, until outfielder Corey Dickerson launched a walk-off solo home run off of Alex Wilson with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Dickerson, 28, has been solid for the Pirates for the first month of the season. He’s batting .314/.348/.500 with a pair of home runs, 13 RBI, and 13 runs scored in 92 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired him from the Rays in late February in exchange for journeyman pitcher Daniel Hudson and Single-A infielder Tristan Gray.