Measuring a Hitters Brain ActivitySep 19, 2023
Read time: 4 minutes
Dr. Andy Wolfe is a research scientist, professor at Tarleton State University, and a former college baseball coach.
He has conducted extensive research in the field of sports science, focusing on improving training methods for various athletic populations, including baseball players.
* Grip strength at specific arm orientations, such as neutral grip and pronated grip, correlates with hitting performance metrics in hitters.
* Training for players should focus on moving the scapula and include unilateral exercises for both upper and lower body.
I was talking to Anthony Iapoce on my podcast a few years ago and he mentioned something that stuck out to me.
"I want to be able to measure a hitter's thoughts"
I thought to myself well, that makes sense; we have data on everything else related to hitting.
It would be nice to measure the most important thing out of all of them.
I read through multiple studies that have used EEG on hitters and will summarize what was found below.
Electroencephalography, short for EEG, is a method for gauging brain electrical activity. This is achieved by placing small metal discs on the scalp, allowing us to monitor brain activity as our hitters step up to the plate.
Research Study #1
This study was done in 2015. I think there are some good takeaways, which I've highlighted below. However, I'd also like to note that this research was not done with a batter in the box and a pitcher on the mound:
"Subjects viewed 5 blocks of 90 simulated baseball pitch trials on a computer monitor. Subjects sat at a distance of 51” from the screen. The simulated view was that of the catcher sitting on a standard baseball diamond, i.e., at the end point of the pitch trajectory."
Key takeaways from this study:
1. Enhanced Perception-Action Coupling:
The study found that expert hitters demonstrate enhanced perception-action coupling, indicating a tighter connection between what they see and how they respond physically.
This heightened coupling allows expert hitters to make quicker and more accurate decisions about when to swing and when to hold back.
2. Reduced Neural "Noise":
EEG data revealed expert hitters exhibit reduced neural "noise" during pitch recognition. This means their brains filter out irrelevant information more efficiently, allowing them to focus on crucial cues from the pitcher. Crazy, right?
I think about this in scouting or even at college camps. What if you put an EEG device on a hitter, and then you can tell from the graph what hitters are better at reducing "noise" vs. others?
In the brain, the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, and thalamus are responsible for emotional processing.
What if you put the EEG device on a hitter and could see that this part of the brain was more active, showing this hitter deals with a high amount of anxiety in the box?
The future of scouting is going to be interesting.
How does this information matter?
Coaches can use this insight to train batters to improve their ability to filter out distractions and focus on key visual cues.
Timing and Anticipation:
The study highlighted that expert hitters possess a superior ability to anticipate pitch location and timing.
As coaches, we can work on developing drills that enhance players' predictive skills, helping them anticipate pitch trajectories more effectively.
Implementing EEG Insights in Coaching
Now that we know how the study "Knowing When Not to Swing" sheds light on the mechanisms behind expert hitting, let's discuss practical ways to integrate these insights into your coaching routines:
1. Perception-Action Training:
Design training exercises that specifically target the enhancement of perception-action coupling, helping your players make quicker decisions.
2. Distraction Management:
Incorporate drills that simulate game-day distractions, helping players practice filtering out irrelevant information and maintaining their focus.
3. Pitch Recognition Drills:
Develop drills that emphasize pitch recognition, allowing players to hone their ability to anticipate pitch location and timing.
The next article was written by Anthony Brady, currently a Biomechanist for the Philadelphia Phillies.
2 key definitions from the article.
Neural Noise: Neural noise refers to random electrical fluctuations that can disrupt sensorimotor control. In hitting, efficient brain activity is critical, and reducing neural noise may optimize resource allocation.
The Flash-Lag Effect: This phenomenon, involves our brain predicting an object's position ahead of its trajectory, and plays a pivotal role in tracking fast-moving objects like a baseball or softball. It's all about efficient brain resource allocation.
The article presents an experiment where a hitter tracked pitches while EEG data was recorded.
The findings reveal that as the hitter tracked more pitches, neural noise significantly reduced, indicating more efficient brain activity.
So maybe before a game, you crank up the pitching machine to a high velocity and have hitters take pitches.
This will reduce neural noise in the brain.
- EEG (Electroencephalography) is a tool that can be used to understand hitters' brain activity.
- Expert hitters exhibit enhanced perception-action coupling, allowing quick decisions about when to swing.
- Expert hitters display reduced "neural noise," improving focus on crucial visual cues.
- We as coaches can design drills to enhance focus and anticipation skills based on EEG insights.
- An EEG case study involved a hitter tracking pitches.
- Tracking more pitches led to a significant reduction in neural noise, indicating more efficient brain activity.
- "Neural noise" refers to random electrical fluctuations that disrupt sensorimotor control.
- The Flash-Lag Effect, predicting object positions ahead of time, plays a role in tracking fast-moving objects like baseballs.
- Suggest using high-velocity pitching machines before games to reduce neural noise and optimize hitting performance.
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