Sunday, January 25, 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 BowmanL@shns.com

Comments

comments

Scripps Howard News Service

.

News

Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Share your love (story) with us

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Winter produce available at Sutter market

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Donations to be distributed during homeless count

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Speaker will share computer security tips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Davis, Woodland are saving water

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

Words and Music Festival events

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Family isn’t keen on relationship

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

 
 
Caring for the aging mouth

By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

 
Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

We have the right to choose

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
We don’t have to suffer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City helped immensely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

 
From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

UCD men take two tennis matches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

 
Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

 
Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8