One of the latest scientific news to impact sports world has been neuroscience. In the past few months, there has been unprecedented hype around a seminal book Zach Schonbrun, called ‘The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius.’ An interestingly written book, it acknowledges the mindset of a professional baseball hitter. The news has excited all age groups of baseball players but most sports academics, trainers, and coaches about the possible advantages of brain-gaming and cognitive training.
Sports psychology reaches Neuroscience
Sports science has been popular in the form of sports psychology, and this book documents one of the first attempts to use Neuroscience in the field of sports to develop anatomical theories. An EEG machine recorded the split-second decision-making cognitive process of a professional baseball hitter, whether to swing the bat or not to swing the bat.
Schonbrun reasons that baseball is easier to analyze as well as deconstruct into smaller data byte sizes, in comparison to other more popular games such as Football or Basketball. On the other hand, the author points out; it is convenient to analyze a hitter as it is simple interaction – swing, don’t swing, repeated number of times. Hence, the repetitive measurements are easy to map and derive an analysis.
The reason for sports scientists to feel excited about this type of research is that they have been able to break down the most critical part of playing a game – the decision-making process.
Sports industry, especially in the USA, is a high-investment industry. From steep player salaries to extensive infrastructure development, there is a lot of money involved in sports. However, all of these will translate into profits, only when players win matches. Thus, in baseball, the entire reward-and-returns pathway depends entirely on the psychology of the hitter and other players.
Schonbrun’s neuroscientific research-based decision-making process has added a new dimension to sports in the USA.
Adding to plate discipline
Based on this research, teams are building new technologies for training. The author states that this new science is “going to get” from players “new information that we can tell you when a hitter decides to swing or not swing at a pitch, down to the very millisecond. You can do with that information what you want.”
After collecting data from a sufficient number of players, soon it will be possible for gaming scientists to identify a baseline around which players arrive at their decision. Thus far, it is known that for a guy to hit .300, the decision to hit the ball is taken in just 300 to 350 milliseconds leaving the home plate. Using such scientific research, team scouts could then begin to search for players who use that particular timeframe for decision-making. Hence, in addition to plate discipline, this new technology will work as a means to screen and scout for great baseball talent.
The publication of these findings has given room to another side of the debate. Should players be providing their neuroscience data? As the negative connotations are minimal in comparison to the quality research that is otherwise possible, many players are submitting to neuroscience research.