New research shows brainwaves can predict baseball performance

The more going on, in one’s head can affect performance on the field

When Anthony Pluta is in the zone and steps up to the plate, everything around him disappears.

The roar of the fans turns quiet and it becomes a battle between batter and pitcher.

“You’re in the zone. It’s almost like you’re not in the present. You’re not thinking about anything and everything is just there and easy to see,” said Pluta, who was a third-round draft pick for the Houston Astros in 2000 and continued to pitch for Major League Baseball affiliate organizations in Canada, Japan and the U.S. for 13 years. “When you’re not [in the zone], you over think everything.”

Now, the former professional baseball player-turned-University of Victoria masters student has discovered a way to use new technology to predict how players will perform to bat and quantify when athletes are “in the zone.”

As part of the six-month project, Pluta used a Canadian-made portable electroencephalographic (EEG) headband, which measures brain activity. Participants included members of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, the Douglas College Royals and a number of Vancouver and Vancouver Island-based elite high-school baseball players, who strapped on the headband before batting.

Three nationally-certified coaches rated the players based on pitch recognition, form, power and contact with the ball.

What researchers found surprised them.

The higher the batter’s brain activity in the beta range (16 to 30 hertz) — a range typically associated with increased cognition and concentration — the worse they performed during batting practice. Players with lower activity in the beta range hit better during practice, a range associated with a more relaxed state.

“The less that’s going on up there (in your head), the better you are at batting,” said Olave Krigolson, a neuroscientist with the university. ”You frequently tell athletes not to over think things and that would parallel this.”

Knowing which players to put into a game and when is valuable information for coaches as well, said Pluta, an assistant coach with the Victoria Eagles.

“It’s having the ability to say who has the best chance of getting a hit coming off the bench to potentially help me and the team win a baseball game rather than a gut feeling,” he said. “This is something that is present and happening in the moment and gives me an immediate answer of which player to put in.”

But their research doesn’t end there. The duo hopes to expand the project to collect more data and work with teams in a variety of sports to help predict performance.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Transplant caregiver starts website for financial, mental health support

Beth Campbell-Duke started Transplant Rouges after her husband’s double lung transplant

Victoria ranked as one of B.C.’s worst cities to work in

High living costs and low average incomes drop Victoria from the top 10

Saanich swimmer has ribs removed, posts them on social media

Long distance swimmer endures 16th surgery ahead of next big attempt

Cyclist without helmet thrown onto windshield in Victoria

Despite damage to bike, cyclist uninjured following accident

Victoria no longer interested in hosting a downtown casino

Mayor puts forward letter that retracts interest in hosting a casino

Lawyer for Chinese exec detained by Canada says it’s ‘inconceivable’ she would flee

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Most Read