Nike funds scientific study to "prove" its new sports glasses enhance memory

You've heard of pharmaceutical companies and cigarette lobbyists funding studies to prove that their products are awesome. But now Nike is getting in on the game. The company funded a study at Duke's Institute for Brain Sciences that investigated "stroboscopic training" using Nike's new sports glasses, called Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobes. According to a press release from Duke:

Participants in a Duke University study engaged in physical activities, such as playing catch, while using either specialized eyewear that limits vision to only brief snapshots or while using eyewear with clear lenses that provides uninterrupted vision . . . The study found that participants who trained with the strobe eyewear gained a boost in visual memory abilities.

Participants completed a memory test that required them to note the identity of eight letters of the alphabet that were briefly displayed on a computer screen. After a variable delay, participants were asked to recall one of the eight letters. On easy-level trials, the recall prompt came immediately after the letters disappeared, but on more difficult trials, the prompt came as late as 2.5 seconds following the display. Because participants did not know which letter they would be asked to recall, they had to retain all of the items in memory.

"Humans have a memory buffer in their brain that keeps information alive for a certain short-lived period," said Greg Appelbaum, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University and first author of the study. "Wearing the strobe eyewear during the physical training seemed to boost the ability to retain information in this buffer."

The strobe eyewear disrupts vision by only allowing the user to see glimpses of the world. The user must adjust their visual processing in order to perform normally, and this adjustment produces a lingering benefit; once participants removed the strobe eyewear, there was an observed boost in their visual memory retention, which was found to last 24 hours.

That's right — wearing Nike's new eyewear helps you train for sports, and boosts your memory! Science says so. At least, science funded by Nike says so.

The scientific paper that Appelbaum and his colleagues produced focuses on stroboscopic training generally, but nevertheless highlights the "specialized stroboscopic eyewear" from Nike. Meanwhile Nike is touting the study as proof that its sports glasses are, as the company puts it, "integrating vision science into training." Nothing like paying for a scientific endorsement to earn you some dubious credibility.