Kohn: Scientists examine what happens in the brain when bat meets ball

From David Kohn at the Washington Post on August 31, 2016:

Hitters somehow manage to succeed at this deeply complex task, generally getting a hit about a quarter of the time. But exactly how they do it remains a mystery. Being quick or strong is no guarantee of success: There are many examples of athletically gifted players who didn’t make it because they couldn’t hit well enough.

Now, two neuroscientists have focused on an understudied aspect of hitting: the brain. They have developed a way to measure brain activity just before and during the act of hitting, and they think their approach can help unravel the neural processes that underlie the skill — and perhaps help hitters improve.

The pair, Jason Sherwin and Jordan Muraskin, are currently working with two major league teams, gathering data about how players’ brains respond to pitches. “Often, people talk about hitting a baseball as ‘reflex’ or ‘instinct,’ ” Muraskin says. “What we’re seeing is that it’s the brain being able to perceive and act in a more efficient way. That’s what allows you to be a good hitter. Hitting is in large part a brain skill.”

The project began five years ago, when Sherwin and Muraskin were working in the Columbia University lab of neuroscientist Paul Sajda; Muraskin was pursuing his PhD, while Sherwin was a postdoctoral research scientist. Sherwin and Sajda were studying how musicians’ brains react to music and how this response differs from that of non-musicians. Muraskin, a New York Yankees fan, asked Sherwin, who roots for the Chicago Cubs, whether the musician work would translate to baseball, especially to hitting.

Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/scientists-examine-what-happens-in-the-brain-when-bat-tries-to-meet-ball/2016/08/29/d32e9d4e-4d14-11e6-a7d8-13d06b37f256_story.html

Originally published: August 31, 2016. Last Updated: August 31, 2016.