There is a revolution taking place in neuroscientific theories of sensory data processing. This newer thinking revolves about the theory of predictive processing.
Many neuroscientists are now proponents of what is known as top-down bottom up processing. Essentially this hypothesis views the brain as a prediction engine.
The brain decides what it expects to see and reconciles this with incoming sensory information. If everything matches up, processing speed is enhanced thus allowing us to move much closer to real-time processing.
Three examples that highlight how the brain generates our reality are as follows. First, slight of hand/magic tricks–when someone pulls a coin out of your ear, or a rabbit out of the hat, your brain is showing you the most likely explanation it can come up with based on the incoming sensory data.
The brain short-circuits the incoming sensory data and creates an image that most likely makes sense in the context of what was happening. Second, phantom pain. This is when people feel discomfort in of body part that is no longer present because of amputation.
This is a very real phenomenon. There can be no incoming sensory data from the absent body part and yet discomfort is felt–this is entirely generated by the brain.
I began writing the book that is the basis for this article - The Art and Science of Ball Watching - in August of 2019 and finished it in January of 2021. In a sense, though, I have been working on it since I started playing tennis fifty-five years ago at the age of five. In high school I played four years of varsity tennis in addition to sanctioned USTA junior tournaments. I probably reached a 4.5-5.0 level. I considered playing small college tennis, but by then I was burned out on the sport, and knew that my pre-med studies wouldn't allow time for college tennis.
But tennis was in my blood, and I started playing again with a passion after medical school. During this time, I really started to study the technical aspects of the game.
My idea for the book started out with various technical ideas that I had been kicking around by watching great players over several generations. In the end I came to the conclusion that good racket to ball contact depends on good ball watching. I wrote the book to teach myself how to see racket to ball contact and my hope is it can help you do the same.
The Art and Science of Ball Watching
The Art and Science of Ball Watching takes the reader through the scientific principles involved in tennis ball watching, with a focus on those aspects of Physical and Biologic science that facilitate the ability to see ball contact.