24 January 2014

Stroboscopic Training

Welcome back. Before I stray too far from last Tuesday’s Temporal Resolution Addendum, with its discussion and videos of the Wagon Wheel or Stroboscopic Effect, I thought you might want to invest in a pair of stroboscopic spectacles. 

Nike advertisement for
stroboscopic eyewear.
That eyewear has been around for a few years, though the research, led by Duke University investigators, is still catching up. To date it’s shown that wearing stroboscopic eyewear while training for certain athletic activities can improve visual short-term memory and thus performance. That’s impressive.

Visual Perception Effects

Nike, the sports footwear-apparel-equipment manufacturer, began producing goggles whose battery-powered, liquid-crystal lenses flickered between transparent and opaque at an adjustable rate. The idea was that stroboscopic viewing would enhance the link between seeing and responding since the wearer would have to make better use of the reduced visual information.

The initial academic research with Nike’s goggles had test participants wearing either the stroboscopic eyewear or identical goggles with transparent lenses while they trained on simple athletic drills such as throwing and catching.

To gauge the value of wearing the stroboscopic eyewear during training the participants completed a series of before and after, computer-based assessments that measured visual sensitivity, short-lived spatial attention and sustained attention.

The results indicated that training with stroboscopic eyewear did indeed improve some aspects of visual perception and attention, in particular, visual sensitivity (central field motion, not peripheral) and short-lived attention.

Short-Term Memory Effects

A follow up study was conducted with different participants to better understand the mechanisms involved in improving perception. Before and immediately after one group of participants engaged in athletic activities either with or without the stroboscopic eyewear, they completed a letter-recall memory task. A second group of participants did the same, except the after-training memory task was delayed 24 hours.

Both groups that trained with stroboscopic eyewear showed enhanced retention of information in short-term memory leading to better recall at longer delays. The results demonstrated (1) stroboscopic training improves visual memory, (2) the mental faculties go beyond the specific athletic training task and (3) improvements last for at least 24 hours.

The improvement in visual perception that came after training with stroboscopic eyewear was thus attributed at least in part to improved short-term memory.

Hockey Player Performance 


The most recent report is of a pilot study in which 11 professional ice hockey players trained either with or without stroboscopic eyewear. The stroboscopic training group averaged an 18 percent improvement in performance from pre-training to post-training, while the control group’s performance did not improve.

Although the sample size was too small to make definitive statements, it’s expected that further research will show similar improvement trends. It’s also expected that the potential applications of stroboscopic training will not be limited to athletics.

Wrap Up

Now that I’ve convinced you that you need Nike’s stroboscopic eyewear regardless of price (about $300), I have to tell you that Nike stopped selling the product, reason unannounced.

PRIMARY Strobe Glasses,
Japan (dynamicvision.jp/)

There is a company in Japan that was selling its own stroboscopic eyewear (nice colors, higher price), but I haven’t confirmed that it’s still in business; its website copyright is 2011. If future research continues generating comparable results, it’s hard to believe that industry won’t jump in.

Oh! Very important. Although the research to date was done independently, much of it was funded by Nike. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.

- 2011 paper on research in Frontiers in Psychology:
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203550/
- 2012 paper on research in Attention, Perception & Psychophysics:
link.springer.com/article/10.3758%2Fs13414-012-0344-6
- Article on 2012 paper on Science Daily website:
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723171850.htm
- 2013 paper on hockey player pilot study in Athletic Training and Sports Health Care:
www.healio.com/orthopedics/journals/atshc/%7B9cf36fe8-9769-4909-acae-5419d69ab6b5%7D/enhancing-ice-hockey-skills-through-stroboscopic-visual-training-a-pilot-study
- Articles on 2013 paper on Science Daily and Business Week websites:
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131213201152.htm
www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-18/nikes-strobe-light-glasses-prove-helpful-dot-good-luck-finding-them

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