Beyond Gaming: The Utility of Video Games for Sports Performance

Beyond Gaming: The Utility of Video Games for Sports Performance

Roma P. Patel, Jerry Lin, S. Khizer R. Khaderi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1817-4.ch010
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The interest around the utilization of video games as a component of rehabilitative therapy has dramatically increased over the past decade. Research efforts have confirmed the positive effects of repetitive gaming in improving visual outcomes; however, there is limited knowledge on the mechanism of action delivered by repetitive gaming. Utilizing knowledge of the visual system, including targeting specific cells in the retina with visual stimuli, the authors captured the training effects of gaming to augment pre-selected skills. Specifically, the authors embedded a homerun derby style baseball game with a contrast threshold test, to stimulate parvocellular retinal ganglion cells. Parvocellular cells are the first line of the ventral, or “what” pathway of visual processing. Repetitive stimulation of the parvocellular system shows promising preliminary results in improving batting performance.
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Defining The Relationship Between Visual Processing And Sports Performance

To better study the visual function of an athlete, one must first understand the basics of visual processing. The visual processing model described by Ungerleider and Mishkin in 1982 consists of two anatomically and functionally distinct information pathways – a dorsal “where” pathway and a ventral“what” pathway. The dorsal pathway is the Magnocellular (M- cell/Parasol) system consisting of large soma with large dendritic fields and increased axon density in the periphery. Associated neurons have a fast response time with rapid decay, resulting in more transient vision. Although this system has less spatial resolution, it is more sensitive to subtle contrast, movement, location, and onset of stimuli. The ventral pathway is the Parvocellular (P-cell/Midget) system of small soma with small dendritic fields and slow conduction velocity (See Figure 1). This system is sensitive to shape, color, and detail resulting in higher spatial resolution. Thus, the ventral P cell pathway serves for object recognition and form representation while the dorsal M cell pathway provides spatial awareness and action guidance. Jaekl et al. have shown that the visual detection enhancement from multisensory integration (such as auditory input) is mainly articulated by the magnocellular system, which is most sensitive at low spatial frequencies (Jaekl & Soto-Faraco, 2010) Further investigation into the magnocellular pathways in athletes could elicit more knowledge on how their visual processing functions.

Figure 1.

Parvocellular cells in the human visual processing system

Source: McGill University, used under copyright license.

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