Tuesday, March 3, 2015
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 [email protected]

Comments

comments

Scripps Howard News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Nominees sought for city’s human rights awards

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

     
    Pedal power: It’s a different kind of March Madness

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    STEM-Tastic Sunday highlights summer opportunities

    By Chloe Lessard | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    County: Baby Justice was on Social Services’ radar

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Budget standoff leaves California college hopefuls in limbo

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    House to vote on Homeland bill without conditions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    State to supply just 20 percent of water

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: Rampant crime on the streets of Davis

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2, 1 Comment | Gallery

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Appeals court upholds protection for threatened seabird

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Tuleyome needs volunteers for work party

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    ‘Pearls Before Swine’ joins daily comics lineup

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Winter market wraps up Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Public broadband, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Alcoholic liver disease strikes Hispanics years earlier

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Embroiderers will discuss needlework tools

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get a taste of Middle Earth at library

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Holmes’ talent showcased

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Bingo games Sunday will benefit DHS Madrigals’ trip

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Go all in for fun at Texas Hold ‘Em tournament

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    DCC Nursery School hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Join a fitness party at Zumba class

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Logos Books hosts conversation groups, poetry readings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Sure and begorrah!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Overeaters get support at meetings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

    Cycle de Mayo kicks off Bike Month

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Klein’s book featured at Authors on the Move

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    City says it did not OK Ygrene mailers

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A6

    .

    Forum

    The kids aren’t interested

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    One more family insult

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Act for our children’s future

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    UCD alums will want to stay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

    End the use of this word

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    Thanks for act of kindness

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

     
    Cannery CFD creates unequal taxation patchwork

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Climate changes are inevitable

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Sports

    Lady Blue Devils in semis Tuesday night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggie men host two big ones this week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Dream run ends for Davis’ master wrestlers

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devil boys net an easy tennis victory

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    In the Clubhouse: Summerhays Jr. talks about new post at El Macero CC

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Newly acquired Smith scores in Sharks’ victory

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Aggie lacrosse team takes home opener

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Blue Devil girls look for revenge in the pool

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: B10 | Gallery

     
    DHS boys aim to repeat as section swim champs

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: B10

    .

    Features

    Name Droppers: Dunn graduates from Marine Corps basic training

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Arts

    Thursday Live! features Keith Cary, Wyatt Hesemeyer

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    Songs of the Civil War to be performed by Anonymous 4

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Davis Chorale starts year with demanding music

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Dieter W. Gruenwedel

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Otto Vasak

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7