Research Alert

The brain’s visual system is a crucial performance determinant in elite sports. To reach a high level, athletes must rapidly transfer visual information into movement (i.e., fast reaction time). Consequently, this raises the question - how can we train the brain to get a competitive advantage? Interest in “brain training” and “visual training” technology to speed up the brain’s visual system and improve reaction time continues to increase; however, whether the brain actually adapts to this training is unclear. This study investigated the effects of stroboscopic visual training on reaction time and brain activation speed. Thirty-two high-level youth badminton players performed an identical badminton-specific training under stroboscopic (intervention) or normal (control) visual conditions. Prior to and after the training, the athlete’s brain activity was measured during a reaction test. Participants of the stroboscopic training group significantly reduced their visuomotor reaction time. Importantly, faster reactions were strongly linked to an earlier activation of the brain’s visual system. Performance did not change in the control group. The authors conclude that faster reactions following stroboscopic training result from adaptations in the brain’s visual system. Stroboscopic training may be a promising training tool for athletes in sports that require fast reactions.