01. NeuroTracker

New Research: NeuroTracker Improves Pro Baseball Hitting

May 9, 2024

It’s rare for pro sports teams to engage in peer-reviewed neuroscience studies. It’s even less rare to study ‘far transfer’, that is, whether or not generic forms of training can produce measurable improvements in competitive sports performance. Researchers from Nishinippon Institute of Technology, Kyusyu Institute of Technology, and Kyushu Sangyo University teamed up with the Saitama Seibu Lions, a professional baseball team in Japan's Pacific League. Their goal was to investigate if training with NeuroTracker’s 3D multiple object tracking could produce far transfer effects by enhancing hitting performance. Here we will summarize the surprising results.

Breaking New Ground in NeuroTracker Research

Although there are over 100 independently published NeuroTracker studies, this ambitious study titled ‘Transferability of Multiple Object Tracking Skill Training to Professional Baseball Players’ Hitting Performance’, employed some new research methodologies.

Firstly, the training intervention spanned approximately 5 months, with coaches at the Seibu Lions advising on the most relevant performance metrics to measure.

Secondly, the study gave the baseball players the freedom to choose when and where to do their training using the remote capabilities of the NeuroTrackerX platform.

Lastly, this was the first NeuroTracker study to examine the effects of extended training, with some players completing above 80 sessions (vs the standard of 30 sessions). For this reason, some dual-task NeuroTracker training was incorporated into the intervention according to the patented NeuroTracker Learning System. This is the first research to include this methodology in a far transfer study.

What Was Studied

12 pro baseball players undertook the NeuroTracker training intervention. Most players opted to perform their NeuroTracker sessions following their baseball practice (74.8% of sessions).  

Out of these players, 6 met the inclusion criteria (factoring in effects of player transfers and injuries) for studying far transfer effects to competition performance. 2 of the baseball players were short-distance hitters, three were medium distance, and one was long-distance.

Data for these athletes was collected from professional league games for 4 months prior to the training, through to 5 months after the starting the NeuroTracker intervention. The performance metrics collected were as follows.

Zone contact: the percentage of batted balls (including foul balls) that occurred when the batter swung.

Zone-swing strike: the percentage of all pitches thrown in the strike zone that resulted in strikes when the batter swung at them.

Outside swing: the percentage of batters who swung at pitches thrown outside the strike zone.

Outside-swing strike: the percentage of cases in which a batter swung at a pitch thrown outside the strike zone.

What Was Found

NeuroTracker pre-post baselines and average learning rates

In terms of group average the players started out with NeuroTracker speed thresholds of around 1.7, which is atypically high for professional athletes. This rose to 2.2 by the end of training - approximately a 30% increase in visual tracking speed skill.

Importantly, learning rates through the extended training intervention showed no ceiling effects, suggesting that long-term NeuroTracker training yields on-going cognitive benefits.

Hitting Performance for each of the metrics were separated into two sub-categories: fast-balls and non-fastballs.

For batting against fastball pitches there were mixed results, with marginal but non-significant gains overall. The in-conclusive results here may be related to the limits of human perception and reaction.

As baseball and sport-vision expert Dr. Dan Laby states, when it comes to the extreme pitch speeds that pros can reach, hitting a baseball is ‘‘the most difficult task in all of sports’’.

This is because hitters have an effective window of just 150 milliseconds to see the pitch, decide, and then trigger a motor action. This is half the time it takes to blink!

For non-fastball pitches such as curve balls and sliders, significant post-training improvements were seen with surprisingly large effect sizes.

Successful hit rate increased by +12%, while zone swing and outside swing strikes were reduced substantially by -25.3% and -26.5% respectively. Outside swings were also positively reduced by -9.6%.


Given that the time committed to NeuroTracker sessions was just 1 to 1.5 hours per month, the results suggest that this form of training is highly efficient for improving baseball hitting skills. In particular, reducing the number of strikes against curve balls and sliders by over 25% is a big result, essentially reducing the potential of pitchers on the opposing team.

The study also provides initial validation that a training protocol determined by the players themselves can still be very productive. Also, in terms of the on-going benefits found for longer-term training, these study findings indicate for the first time that it would be relevant to investigate such transfer effects across multiple sports seasons.

Lastly, and as mentioned at the outset, this type of research with sports professionals is extremely rare. The Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences in Germany conducted a meta-review of 1692 cognitive sports studies, finding that only 3 studies successfully examined far transfer to elite sports performance. As such this research may be influential in encouraging more qualitative studies into human cognitive performance.

Transferability of Multiple Object Tracking Skill Training to Professional Baseball Players’ Hitting Performance’ (open-access paper)
Ryousuke Furukado, Yoshiko Saito, Toru Ichikawa 3, Kei Morikawa, Daiki Enokida, Hirohisa Isogai.

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