Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Processing speed in the blink of an eye

By Lee Bowman

How the heck does any slugger make contact with a fastball going 90 miles per hour? Or a pedestrian not make contact with an oncoming car doing 50 mph?

Some new research suggests the skill of tracking fast-moving objects may lie as much in the visual processing center of the brain as it does in the center of the eye.

The human eye is only so-so at tracking movement. The retina at the back of the eye captures light and transfers images to the optic nerve. Only the center of this structure, an area called the fovea, gives us our sharpest vision and is best able to track moving objects.

But this part of the eye can only focus on about 2 percent of our visual field (think smaller than a fingernail seen at arm’s length). The remaining field of peripheral vision mostly detects motion, but can’t track how something is moving.

That’s why a pitched baseball seems to move so much that it rises or curves — it’s actually moving into the less-capable field of vision. The same thing can happen when judging the path and speed of cars, tennis balls or a charging lion.

Of course, many athletes train hard to keep their central vision in focus, their “eye on the ball.” Vision-training tools — ranging from strings and colored balls to strobe glasses to special videos — are part of locker rooms and equipment rooms around the world.

But it may be that vision training also tunes up a section of the brain’s visual cortex called V5. This region acts as a booster that allows the brain to register what we’re seeing more quickly, helping to overcome a one-tenth-of-a-second lag between sight and recognition.

Looking at that 90 mph fastball, thrown from 60 feet, 6 inches away, a batter only has about 0.4 seconds to react, so a 0.1-second boost is huge.

Researchers at UC Berkeley have been studying the V5 region for more than year, first using a magnetic stimulation technique to disrupt the motion-prediction process.

Then, they conducted brain imaging on six volunteers as they viewed a two-part visual illusion — a series of flashes shifting against different backgrounds. The V5 region fired up as the subjects tracked and interpreted where the flashes were headed. Results of their study were published in the journal Neuron last month.

The research should help not just with understanding batting averages, but also in diagnosing and treating a variety of brain disorders related to impaired motion perception. It also adds to the overall understanding of brain circuitry, the scientists said.

Still more research suggests that fatigue may affect this process. Back at the plate, another new study indicates that major league players’ judgment of the strike zone worsens for many as the season goes on. Batters who play a full season typically have 600 to 700 plate appearances over 162 games.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville looked at the frequency at which batters swung at pitches out of the strike zone during the 2012 season, sorting the data by month for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. They found that batters were more likely to swing at bad pitches in September than in April on 24 of 30 teams, and on average, all teams were more free-swinging near the end of the season.

The team also analyzed data from the 2006 through 2011 seasons, finding a pattern of decline that could be predicted from start to finish in each one.

Dr. Scott Kushner, an assistant professor of sleep and neurology and leader of the study, said the decline is likely due to fatigue that develops over the course of a season through frequent travel and few days off. He presented the study during a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore.

He said it may be possible for teams to improve late-season strike zone judgment by using fatigue management practices, such as more days off for players in the middle and latter parts of the season.

A second fatigue-related study, presented at the same conference by researchers from Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Va., showed that professional baseball players who self-reported higher daytime sleepiness scores were much less likely to still be in the league three years later than those who did not.

— Contact Scripps health and science writer Lee Bowman at BowmanL@shns.com

Comments

comments

Scripps Howard News Service

.

News

 
Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Bauer garden marks one year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Grande site has been a convoluted saga

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

.

Forum

Already made herself at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

 
Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Keep our green waste piles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
How to make a good living

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Health problems mean he’s checked out

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

 
This epidemic should scare us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

.

Sports

Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

 
Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

 
California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

 
Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

.

Obituaries

Wanda P. Daley

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8