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February 10, 2023

Training the Mind

A neuroscientist from Vanderbilt University has created a small business and program called NeuroTrainer which uses VR technology to impact cognitive performance.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

We've seen it many times in the big game, the clock is winding down, the pressure is on, and a team is desperate for an explosive play. Could virtual reality be used to improve performance for elite athletes? Can virtual reality improve resilience, focus, and decision making? We¬'ll explore in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

High level athletes are always looking for ways to optimize their performance and a new virtual reality tool could make the difference by pushing not only the body, but the mind as well. Supported in part by America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, a neuroscientist from Vanderbilt University created a small business and program called NeuroTrainer that uses VR technology to impact performance.

The program uses a potent mixture of cognitive training and immersive video game elements to train and stimulate the neural pathways that drive immediate and long-term performance improvements. With exercises that push you to expand your peripheral vision, and react and respond to multiple objects flying at you at a fast pace, you build important skills like focus, mental resilience, as well as neurocognitive skills like visual acuity, complex decision making, and task-switching.

Athletes in college and professional sports are reporting better outcomes on the court, on the field, and in the arena after using NeuroTrainer. While primarily focused on sports optimization to date, the program has also seen success in academic settings. Other potential uses could include helping people with ADHD, Alzheimer’s, visual impairments, or traumatic brain injuries.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to “NSF’s Discovery Files” podcast.

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