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Researchers at the University of California Riverside have found that a little time using a visual practice program can train the brain to see better. Other programs can improve vision even if you aren't a baseball player.

Recently published research reports that baseball players can improve their vision with regular use of a computer game.

Baseball players on the team of the University of California at Riverside were recruited to spend two months using a computerized visual training game. The objective of the game was to find and choose visual patterns modeled after which neurons in their brains responded best to images on the screen. As the game continued, the patterns were made dimmer and dimmer, training the brain to recognize them with less and less input from the eyes.

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After eight weeks of training, players reported that it was easier to keep their eyes on the ball. They could see farther, and they had better peripheral vision. They could see objects in lower light, and they felt their vision was more powerful. On the field, they made more runs and struck out less often.

Some of the players had vision that improved to better than 20/20. Study author Dr. Aaron Seitz was quoted by the Ivanhoe News Service as saying, "The demonstration that seven players reached 20/7.5 acuity—the ability to read text at three times the distance of a normal observer—is dramatic and required players to stand forty feet back from the eye chart in order to get a measurement of their vision."

What Is Different About the UC Riverside Vision Training Program?

The vision training program tried out on the UC Riverside baseball team is hardly the first "train your brain" vision enhancement routine ever created. Computer programs for vision training have been around since the days of Atari and Pac-Man. However, the UC Riverside vision training program is different in several ways:

  • The UC Riverside scientists created a program that would have measurable results that everyone understands (at least if you play or watch baseball), runs batted in (RBI) and strike out percentages.
  • The baseball players' training program didn't rely on just vision. The training program was multi-sensory. While the computer routine focused on improving visual pattern recognition, the end result of the game was not limited to just what they could see. Players also hear the ball.
  • The program did not present the same task over and over again. The patterns were made dimmer and dimmer to increase the effect of training.
  • The training was reinforced by real world tasks in a consistent fashion, by playing the game.

More Training Is Not Necessarily Better Training

The players did 30 training sessions of 25 minutes each over a two-month period. No player did more than one training session per day. 

Neither did training interfere with the playing of the game. The researchers began training after the close of the 2012 Big West Conference baseball season and completed it before the 2013 season. Then the researchers used player stats from the two seasons to validate the results of the training. College players typically improve from year to year, and allowances were made for maturity in the game in the analysis of the data. The researchers concluded that vision training was responsible for four or five additional wins in the 2013 season.

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