When you look at something, the image of that thing is ultimately formed in the brain, not the eyes. The brain allows one to recognize the object, its shape and color, relative distance, and other factors. So, when a team of psychologists at the University of California focused on improving the vision of the college’s baseball team members, they worked on the brain, not the eyes.
In collaboration with Carrot Neurotechnology Inc., professors Aaron Seitz and Daniel Ozer, along with Jenni Deveau, a recent PhD. graduate, developed the iPhone app UltimEyes
UltimEyes works with neuroplasticity in the brain. It reconfigures the way images are received by the brain. The app engages users with an interactive game that trains their brains to process visual information better using positive reinforcement, such as getting points. The game has proven to increase quality of vision with real-world benefits, something most contemporary ocular exercises have failed to do.
“UltimEyes optimizes visual processing to reduce blurring. Proprietary algorithms monitor your performance and adapt to it, creating a customized session to ensure optimal progress,” states the Ultimeyes website.
Last year, the baseball team had significant improvements in their performance after using Ultimeyes. The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology on Feb. 17, in an article titled, “Improved vision and on-field performance in baseball through perceptual learning.”
The training consisted of players undergoing 30- to 25-minute sessions playing the video game. On the team, 19 players took the training while 18 did not. The ones that did registered “31 percent improvement in visual acuity—some gaining as much as two lines on the Snellen eye chart—and greater sensitivity to contrasts in light.”
“The vision tests demonstrate that training-based benefits transfer outside the context of the computerized training program to standard eye charts,” Seitz said in the study. “Players reported seeing the ball better, greater peripheral vision, and an ability to distinguish lower-contrast objects.”
“Elite baseball batters use various kinds of sensory information to be successful batters, but the most weight is given to visual feedback,” Seitz said.
“This has motivated other vision-training approaches to focus on exercising the ocular muscles, producing mixed results. Our integrated training program is unique in that we focus on training the brain to better respond to the input it receives from the eyes and in that we examined both standard measures of vision as well as real-world performance in elite players. The improvements are substantial and significantly greater than that experienced by players in the rest of the league in the same year.”
Baseball usually requires excellent visual capabilities with most players possessing first-rate eyesight, thus this percentage of improvement excited the researchers even more. The team’s head coach, Doug Smith, said, “Our guys stopped swinging at some pitches and started hitting at others. Their average strikeout total went down and batting went up. There is such a high percentage of failure in our game. Even the best players fail [to hit] 70 percent of the time. Everyone is looking for an edge to be that little bit better. Our guys are more confident now when they come to the plate.”
UltimEyes can be purchased for $5.99 from the App Store.
*Image of a baseball via Shutterstock