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Study Reports Brain can be Trained to See Better

Update Date: Feb 17, 2014 12:13 PM EST

Good vision is not only tied to one's ability to see things from afar or up close, it is also tied to being able to spot out detail. In a new study, researchers from the University of California examined the role of vision for Riverside baseball players. The researchers reported that a visual training program that teaches the brain how to see better could positively affect the baseball team's win-loss ratio.

For this study, the research team headed by Aaron Seitz recruited baseball players to participate in a training experiment. The athletes were asked to identify certain visual patterns. As the training progressed, the patterns became dimmer and dimmer, which tested the players' ability to use their vision in order to search for the patterns. The training involved using an iPad for 25 minutes per day for four days a week.

"The goal of the program is to train the brain to better respond to the inputs that it gets from the eye," Seitz said. "As with most other aspects of our function, our potential is greater than our normative level of performance. When we go to the gym and exercise, we are able to increase our physical fitness; it's the same thing with the brain. By exercising our mental processes we can promote our mental fitness."

The training lasted for two months and the researchers discovered that the athletes had better vision on the actual baseball during a game. The participants stated that they had "greater peripheral vision" and better overall eyesight. Along with these improvements, the participants appeared to play better. They were less likely to strike out and ended up getting more runs. The researchers estimated that the improvements in vision led to an extra four to five wins during the team's 2013 season.

"The demonstration that seven players reached 20/7.5 acuity-the ability to read text at three times the distance of a normal observer-is dramatic and required players to stand forty feet back from the eye chart in order to get a measurement of their vision," added Seitz.

The study, "Improved vision and on field performance in baseball through perceptual learning," was published in Current Biology.

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