March 15, 2018
The competition in professional sports is fierce. Coaches and athletes know that the key to athletic success is training that transfers to better performance. In the previous blog, we saw how NeuroTracker can assess athletic abilities. In this follow-up blog, we’ll look at three studies showing how NeuroTracker training can enhance the all-important cognitive dimensions of performance.
Sports science studies have shown time and again that high-level cognitive abilities are central ingredients for elite athletic performance. For example, sports stars typically have higher than normal levels of executive functions, working memory and attention. This study looked to see if such abilities could be trained with NeuroTracker and if this would be revealed as physiological changes in the brain.
University students performed a training program of 30 NeuroTracker sessions, along with a battery of standardized neuropsychological assessments before and after training. The students also had their brain activity scrutinized via qEEG assessments, pre and post training.
After NeuroTracker training, the students’ scores increased across a wide range of neuropsychological tests, whereas a control group showed no change. The tests revealed significant improvements in executive function, working memory, processing speed, and several types of attention.
The qEEG measures showed heightened brainwave frequencies throughout many regions of the brain. These sustained changes were associated with a higher state of alertness and mental focus, as well as increased neuroplasticity.
The gains in brainwave activity represented improvements in peak performance capacities. These changes also occurred in frontal lobe regions. This showed that vision training can transfer to the ‘command center’ of the brain, which is responsible for complex processes like decision-making. This also explained why high-level cognitive abilities like executive function had improved on the test scores. Although the study only showed ‘near transfer’, it demonstrates that a wide range of mental skills, known to be critical for sports performance, could be improved rapidly and robustly with NeuroTracker training.
When it comes to team sports, coaches and pro players consistently point to decision-making as a crucial factor for top performance. However, because sports like football and soccer have incredibly complex and often chaotic patterns of play, training specific decision-making skills is extremely challenging. This is one reason why NFL pros spend as much as 40 hours per week watching video replays. But what if fundamental decision-making abilities could be improved in ways that would apply to any situation? This ambitious study attempted to show just that.
Collegiate soccer players were trained on 30 sessions of NeuroTracker over 5 weeks. Each player’s passing decision-making performance was analyzed by coaches via video replays across a series of competitive matches. An active group and a control group were included in the study, and the coaches were blind as to which soccer players were in which groups. Subjective evaluations were also carried out by the players on their own decision-making performance.
The control groups show almost no changes, whereas the NeuroTracker (3D-MOT) trained group experienced a 15% improvement in passing decision-making accuracy. Interestingly, the players’ self-evaluations closely matched the objective coach assessments.
For the first time, this study demonstrated that perceptual-cognitive training could transfer to tangible performance gains on the field. In a meta-review of 1692 sports science studies, it was deemed to provide the only evidence of far transfer in elite athletes. In a Neuronfire interview with Professor Faubert, eminent neuroscientist Dr. David Bach underlined the gravity of this research:
“…the studies are absolutely rock-solid…(Professor Faubert) can take elite athletes, people who look at fast moving targets for a living, retrain their brain because of neuroplasticity, so that…their cognitive function allows them to see things more quickly. And that translates into a 15% improvement in passing efficiency. Now in professional sports where a 2% or 3% edge can make the difference, that’s an extraordinary finding. I’m excited about this. This work basically teaches us…that you can train even the world’s best visual brains to become better, and that translates directly to into performance improvements.”
As we covered in a previous blog, sports vision training is becoming the next big way to achieve a performance edge over the competition. Vision trainers typically use a range of sophisticated visual assessments that can track changes across low to high-level visual functions. Sports vision scientists at the CAR Olympic training center in Barcelona decided to see if NeuroTracker training could improve visual functions and mental performance with athletes in three different Olympic sports.
Olympians in tennis, taekwondo and water polo were trained on a 26 session NeuroTracker program. The training progressed in complexity by integrating basic and advanced dual-tasks in the latter half of the program. Before and after training the athletes underwent a rigorous battery of sophisticated vision and optometric assessments. Throughout the training program, both athletes and their coaches also carried out a series of assessments on their mental performance.
The NeuroTracker training resulted in significant gains for static visual acuity, stereopsis, spatial contrast sensitivity, saccadic ocular movements, and selective attention. Across all sports, the athlete and coach performance assessments showed large improvements in concentration, perception speed, and peripheral vision. Although these assessments were subjective, gains progressed consistently throughout the training program, and in ways that were almost identical between coaches and athletes.
This complex study showed that perceptual-cognitive training has the potential to improve a wide range of specific visual functions needed to perform at a high level. As the performance assessments showed consistent and continuous improvements, it also suggests that NeuroTracker can keep improving mental focus with on-going training. Lastly, the basic and advanced dual-tasks caused initial drops in NeuroTracker scores, however, the athletes rapidly recovered their levels with training. This demonstrated that athletes can learn to manage high neurophysical training loads, leading the way to the NeuroTracker Learning System.
In the next blog in this three-part series, we’ll find out how NeuroTracker goes beyond sports, and into diverse and surprising areas of human performance.
Interested in NeuroTracker research? You can find study summaries here:
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