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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Audio-Visual Synchrony and Athletic Sensory Integration

In previous posts we’ve surveyed the role of vision in movement.   Vision is often a missing link to elevate performance to new heights but can also unlock persistent limitations.  However, vision does not exist in isolation.  To harness the full potential of vision, we must consider vision in concert with other senses.   

Vision and hearing are intimately related and feed off each other during the maturation process.  So how exactly does this coordination occur?   One early skill in young children is audio-visual synchrony.  In short, synchrony is the brain’s perception of audio and visual stimuli as coming from an identical source.  For example, if you watch a door slam and hear the slam simultaneous to the visual observation, you perceive the audio and visual components in synchronous fashion.  If you slam the door and hear the slam three seconds later (an extreme example), that would be highly asynchronous.  

One critical way audio visual synchrony is acquired is through observing speech.  (Lewkowicz 2010) Even though babies have no clue what adults are saying to them, the visual cue of synchronized sound emanating from moving lips helps establish advanced comprehension.  The ability to perceive audio-visual synchrony in others’ speech is a vital for one’s own language development.   By extension, language development is a vital stage of respiratory coordination, which shows the importance of considering the interdependence of these domains. (see Suck, Swallow, Breathe)

Again, this may seem obvious, but consider a world in which the senses perceive the world in asynchronous fashion.  In fact, you don’t even need to imagine, because we already live there!  Kids who live in cloistered environments without the opportunity to interact with varied environments are deprived of full opportunities to develop audio-visual synchrony.  This is not a mere editorial commentary, but a fact of modern life.  Any wonder today’s youth, having been reared in front of a TV and with mobile devices galore are a generation of “motor morons”?

Evidence suggests the brain has an inherent preference to create order through synchrony. (Kopp 2013)  Nonetheless, it is still unclear the extent to which developmental weakness can predict poor coordination in mature populations.  And can we remedy any non-symptomatic adult conditions by improving audio-visual synchrony?  There are certainly clinical applications for these issues, but in sports the interventions are more common sense...

*Creating varied environments to simulate competition.  Crowd noise may mute synchronous audio visual sound cues an athlete uses for orientation.

*Likewise, crowd noise may help others perform better, as excess quiet may lead to an appearance of amplification

*Know when to shut up or turn off the music in practice.  We have previously examined whether music is helpful for performance.  But another consideration is the long term learning environment created with the interaction of auditory and visual stimuli.  

In sum, audio-visual synchrony is an important.  Though there is still much to learn in this area for possible application to athletics, audio-visual synchrony does highlight the overall primacy of sensory integration for basic motor skills beginning at infancy.

References

Lewkowicz DJ.  Infant perception of audio-visual speech synchrony.  Dev Psychol. 2010 Jan;46(1):66-77. doi: 10.1037/a0015579.

Kopp F, Dietrich C.  Neural dynamics of audiovisual synchrony and asynchrony perception in 6-month-old infants.  Front Psychol. 2013;4:2. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00002. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

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