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Can Neuroscouting's software produce better baseball players?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 14, 2010 01:25 PM

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Screen shot 2010-07-14 at 9.12.11 AM.pngOne of the more intriguing start-ups I've been hearing about this year is Neuroscouting, currently operating out of the DogPatch Labs space in East Cambridge. The company is developing game-like software for evaluating athletes' brain performance — like the way their visual and motor systems respond to an oncoming curve ball — and also improving it. The company will focus first on baseball, but Neuroscouting's tagline ("The science of elite performance") implies that the company will eventually expand to other sports.

Several sources familiar with the company told me that the Red Sox are evaluating the technology for future use, but a team spokesperson didn't respond to multiple calls and e-mails requesting comment. Neuroscouting co-founder Wesley Clapp wrote in an e-mail that "breaching our confidentiality agreements would jeopardize everything that we are working so hard for." Clapp earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and the company's technology is based on recent insights into neuroplasticity — the way the brain can change and improve based on certain kinds of training and experiences. Clapp's co-founder, Brian Miller, earned his PhD in neuroscience at UC/Berkeley.

Neuroscouting's Web site pitches the software it is developing as useful to teams for both scouting and coaching. "Our software tools...analyze and enhance the brain functions required to respond successfully to the intense visuomotor demands seen on the professional field," the site claims. "As a result, they provide a powerful scientific complement to current scouting and player development strategies."

A tweet from venture capitalist Mike Hirshland describes Neuroscouting as developing "videogames for pro athletes." Hirshland is a partner at Waltham-based Polaris Venture Partners, which operates the DogPatch Labs facility; DogPatch provides several months of free office space to promising start-ups. Hirshland said this morning that Polaris hasn't (yet) invested in Neuroscouting.

The company has met with at least one local angel investor, but Clapp wouldn't confirm whether they're seriously seeking funding at this point. The company was founded in 2007.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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