Professional baseball player looking to get mentally focused

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"The last couple of years I've been on the line of Triple-A, big league player,” Brian Barden said. “I really wanted to get over that hump."

Barden has played with teams from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St. Louis Cardinals and now the Florida Marlins organization. He’s looking to move his game to another level, so he's taking a swing at getting mentally focused.

“I've got a lot of negative thoughts coming in and I spend a lot of time on the field trying to get rid of those negative thoughts,” Barden said.

Psychologist Sanford Silverman, from the Center for Peak Performance in Scottsdale, is trying to help Barden, who also struggles with a slight form of Attention Deficit Disorder.

“Once I saw what we were doing, it's a great thing that not only athletes can benefit from, but just regular folks,” Barden said.

He’s using a technique called neurofeedback.

“Neurofeedback, which is also known as EEG biofeedback, is a way to measure brain activity and to enhance one's functioning,” Silverman said.

Silverman said neurofeedback can help improve someone's lack of focus and block out all those distractions. “It's really going to the gym for your brain to compliment the physical part,” Silverman continued.

Silverman begins with a brain map. The patient will wear a cap that can measure the electrical activity in their brain. “I can see how the person's brain is functioning, are they losing their attention and could there be other issues,” Silverman said.

Barden’s plan includes a couple different exercises. One was developed by NASA to help improve pilots' concentration. The S.M.A.R.T. Brain Games technology involves using video games controlled by brain waves.

“This is where the controller is recording a radio frequency signal from an EEG acquisition device and his brain has to produce the proper signals for the game to work properly,” Silverman said.

This means if Barden does not stay focused on the game, the controller will not work effectively.  Another program helping boost his mental fitness is called the Interactive Metronome. It measures his ability to respond quickly and accurately by clapping and using hand and foot sensors.

“He is much more focused,” Silverman said. “He's more enthusiastic. He feels he can concentrate a lot better.”

Barden agrees with Silverman. While he's only completed a few sessions, he believes this is what he needed to focus on and off the field.

“You've got to be in there with a clear mind and focus on the task at hand, which is hitting or catching the baseball, Barden said.

You can reach Dr. Sanford Silverman at the Center for Peak Performance by calling (480) 609-1798 or go to Peak Performance AZ.