BBSRC grant to explore links between vision and sport


20 September 2012

Does having excellent vision go hand in hand with elite sporting ability? To answer this question, Professor Simon Bennett from the LJMU School of Sport and Exercise Sciences will team up with Professor Julie Harris from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St. Andrews and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), in a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) £521k funded project led by the University of Bradford (Dr Brendan Barrett and Dr John Buckley).
 
Professor Bennett comments:
 
“It seems obvious that good vision is a pre-requisite for the exceptional visuo-motor skills needed in many sports. For example, in order to be able to catch a cricket ball, a player needs to anticipate the speed and direction of travel of the ball with a high degree of accuracy. But do elite cricketers have superior vision to non-elites or novices? And if elites do have superior vision to non-elites or novices, is this the cause or a consequence of their exceptional sporting performance? These are the questions that are of interest to our group, the ECB and the BBSRC under their initiative “High performance sport as a model for the acquisition, retention and retraining of an individual’s skill base”.
 
Professor Bennett, leads the Brain and Behaviour Research Group in LJMU’s Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES). He added:
 
“Vision therapy is often used by athletes in an attempt to improve sporting performance. This project will shed light on whether such training is effective, and what is the link between visual processing abilities performed by the brain and sporting performance.”
 
The team will make detailed measures of visual function and relate these to performance on a specific aspect of cricket (one-handed catching).
 
Professor Bennett commented: “We selected cricket because of the complexity of the visual demands required. Our results will generalise to other sports, particularly those featuring a fast-moving ball (e.g. tennis, handball, football). Also, while the focus of this proposal is on linking visual and motor abilities in high-performance sport, we will also address the more general aim of identifying the nature of the relationship between visual and motor capabilities in everyday tasks such as reaching to make contact with a touch-screen computer display. This knowledge could help when devising training and rehabilitation programmes.”
 
For further information about the Brain and Behaviour Research Group at LJMU please visit: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/sps/RISES/100383.htm
 
Coverage highlights:
 
http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/main-section/academics-test-whether-top-cricketers-have-20-20-vision-1-4929656
 
http://www.healthcanal.com/brain-nerves/32239-Sporting-ability-could-matter-brain-over-brawn.html
 
http://www.noodls.com/viewNoodl/15896501/university-of-st-andrews/sporting-ability-could-be-a-matter-of-brain-over-brawn
 
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/9933738.Bradford_scientists_are_ready_to_study_to_see_if_sports_stars_have_exceptional_vision/
 

Photo: Simon Bennet making an eye movement recording in the LJMU Sensorimotor Neuroscience lab.



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