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Study shows brainwaves predict baseball performance

In a demonstration with the Victoria HarbourCats in August, Anthony Pluta demonstrates how the EEG device pairs with an app they developed for research. (Courtesy UVic Photo Services)

Researchers found the higher the batter’s brain activity in the beta range, the worse the batting performance

Players' brainwaves were monitored using portable electroencephalographic (EEG) headbands

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – New York Yankees great Yogi Berra once said baseball is 90 per cent mental and the other half is physical.

A new study out of the University of Victoria didn’t look into that hypothesis — but instead examined the brainwaves of 67 baseball players, finding that high brain activity in the beta range was a predictor of worse batting performance.

Baseball players have known it on a basic level for some time, but this new research conducted by graduate student Anthony Pluta — himself a former pro baseball pitcher — shows that what’s going on in our heads at the plate does make a difference.

“The most surprising from a science perspective was that we found a completely different brain frequency than was originally hypothesized,” says Pluta. “I thought it was going to be, in science terms, a higher alpha power that would create better batting performance.”

“But what we found was that a low beta power predicted batting performance, which was very much a shocker. Because a lot of the research in predicting performance was centred around the alpha brain frequency.”

Players with lower activity in the beta range hit better during batting practice.

Pluta’s next plan is to figure out how to lower brain activity in the beta range in order to improve batter performance.

“That’s hopefully the next piece of the research,” says Pluta. “With teams that buy in or with funding made available, continuing to do the research to find out ways to, let’s say, quiet the beta part of the brain, or puts someone in a state where they’re thinking less. Maybe it’s meditation, maybe it’s mindfulness training, maybe it’s breathing. Who knows what it is? But the next step is finding out if it’s possible, to then introduce it to these baseball players, and then who knows what could happen?”

Like any team player, Pluta is quick to credit all the help he received from Olav Krigolson, a neuroscientist with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Biomedical Research, and everyone else involved. The players’ brainwaves were monitored using portable electroencephalographic (EEG) headbands.