Hydration is one of the most overlooked factors in optimising our gaming performance. Far too many gamers, even at elite levels, overemphasise the importance of hardware, while failing to ensure that their body is in optimal condition to perform. While the importance of hydration for overall gaming performance has already been established, there is one area where hydration is of particular significance.
The collection of systems and skills that neuroscientists refer to as Visuomotor Performance.
What is visuomotor performance?
Visuomotor skill refers to the cooperation between your body’s visual systems, proprioceptive systems and nervous systems in order to achieve goals. These skills are extremely valuable, and involve an incredible amount of processing and coordination - even for the simplest of tasks.
For example, consider the systems involved in catching a ball thrown to you from a distance. What parts of your mind and body are involved?
Visual information from the eyes is processed in the visual cortex - a cluster of functional regions found in the occipital lobe. Data is pulled from the ball’s apparent velocity, angle, and its physical characteristics such as size, weight and so forth.This sense data is used to calculate a trajectory for the ball. In a split second, the visual cortex delivers an accurate model, which can predict where the ball will land.
While this calculation occurs, detailed proprioceptive data is gathered from around the body. The position of the catchers limbs, balance information and so forth.
Using information about the catcher’s location and the ball’s trajectory, the motor cortex prepares a response, coordinating the various muscles of your body to achieve the goal.
Finally this response is transmitted to the body through the cerebellum. Nerve signals are sent through the spinal cord and your muscles contract in sequence.
At this point, hopefully you catch the ball.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on when we talk about visuomotor skills. Information is rapidly transmitted to disparate parts of the brain and nervous system at a dizzying pace - fractions of a second. Furthermore, this all happens totally subconsciously!
Why does visuomotor performance matter for gamers?
It should be obvious to most gamers why visuomotor performance is so critical. Virtually all competitive games involve some form of visuomotor performance - and for a lot of games, the combination of visuomotor coordination and reaction time is a major determinant of success, especially in RTS, FPS, MOBA style games.
What factors impact visuomotor performance?
Due to the complex nature of visuomotor skills; involving many different neural, mechanical and sensory components, visuomotor performance can be affected by many different factors:
Physical and mental stress
Physical and mental stress can have a massive impact on visuomotor skills. A 2019 study found that there was a strong correlation between mental fatigue and poor performance on visuomotor tasks. Furthermore, the degree of impairment was associated with how significant the motor component of the task was; the more complex the movement involved, the more significant the impairment.
Interestingly, the study also found that the degree of impairment was the same between professional athletes and the control group - suggesting that even extensive training cannot mitigate the impact of stress on visuomotor performance.
A large body of research suggests that fatigue and sleep are strongly related to questions of visuomotor performance. Significantly, sleep has been shown to be vital for the acquisition and reinforcement of visuomotor skills. The takeaway? If performance is important to you, good sleep and recovery should be a priority.
Concentration and attention
Given the complex nature of visuomotor skills, maintaining concentration and focus is vitally important to success. Even a moments distraction can have a massive impact on your reaction speed and accuracy - this has been a significant area of study, particularly with regards to distractions and driving. Maximising focus and concentration is contingent on a variety of factors, but a great way to give yourself an edge is with careful supplementation. Supplement formulations like Legion FOCUS+ENERGY offer an easy, research-backed solution.
Hydration and electrolyte content
Of all the factors we’ve outlined here, research suggests that the most significant contributing factor may well be hydration and electrolyte levels. The massively negative impact on dehydration on visuomotor performance in conventional athletes is well documented.
Why is hydration and electrolyte level such a significant factor?
As you probably already know, dehydration is a state that occurs when water intake is insufficient to replace water lost to the surrounding environment through respiration, sweating, urination and so forth. Dehydration starts to take its toll at around three or four percent loss of total body water, though some research suggests that a deficit as small as two percent can significantly impact cognitive performance.
Electrolytes are electrically conductive solutions formed by dissolving a salt in a solvent such as water. Important electrolytes for human bodies include
These electrolytes serve a wide range of functions in the body, including the transmission of nerve signals, balancing your body’s pH, keep you hydrated and much more. Imbalances of levels of these electrolytes can be detrimental to visuomotor performance, as well as overall health.
How can we improve visuomotor performance?
Ultimately, there are three main areas which we can control when it comes to visuomotor performance - Rest, Concentration and Hydration.
While rest and concentration are obviously vital for optimum performance, the area that most elite gamers tend to neglect is hydration. Particularly when it comes to supplementation.
Most elite gamers are aware that concentration and attention can be supported with scientifically proven nootropic formulations like Legion FOCUS+ENERGY. Similarly, it is an open secret amongst top tier esport athletes that formulations based around GABA support are a great way to maximise the impact of rest and recovery.
In contrast, the impact of adequate hydration and electrolyte management on visuomotor and cognitive performance is not as widely known. In fact, gaming culture is associated with the consumption of very sugary, high caffeine soft drinks which are terrible for hydration.
Taking advantage of balanced and tested hydration support solutions is probably the easiest way to gain that coveted edge in competitive play. Legion HYDRATE+AMINO contains a tailor made blend of amino acids and electrolyte salts that are designed to offer optimal hydration, in a delicious, sugar and stimulant free format.