Everyone’s favorite 80’s arcade game may help to improve amblyopia in adults.
When we were kids, our parents used to warn us about spending too much time sat in front of the television screen each afternoon. “You’re going to go cross-eyed if you keep playing those dog-gone video games all day long!” While this was surely a ruse to get us to go outside and play with friends instead of virtual video game characters, many parents were also concerned about the damage that the television could do to our eyesight.
However, new studies show that playing some video games―the classic 80’s arcade hit Tetris, in particular―may actually provide benefits to our eyesight, rather than damage as parents once believed.
A new study published in the journal Current Biology found that Tetris, the classic puzzle-type game that requires you to match up falling blocks before they become stacked too high, could actually help to improve the eyes of adults who suffer from amblyopia, or more commonly known as lazy eye.
This common vision condition occurs when the nerves that connect our eyes to our brain do not fully develop or develop incorrectly when we are young. The result of this vision problem is blurry or even wrong images being sent to the brain, causing the brain to ignore these images and instead favor the images that are coming in from the other strong eye. Over time, people with amblyopia may find that they may be primarily using one eye to see, or that they have trouble perceiving depth.
Most cases of lazy eye be treated through the use of prescription lenses, prisms and/or eye patches, some researchers believe that vision therapy―when the two eyes attempt to work together in unison―may be a strong contributor to fighting off lazy eye.
With this theory in mind, researchers from McGill University began testing Tetris on 18 adults who were living with amblyopia in order to test how much the condition improved when the eyes were forced to work together.
Nine of the adults in the study were asked to play Tetris while wearing special goggles that viewed the falling blogs with one eye, and the blocks that rested on the ground with the other. The other nine patients used goggles that blocked their good eye (the non-amblyopia eye) as if they were wearing an eye patch.
After playing the game for an hour each day for two weeks straight, it was found that the group who had their vision split had significantly improved their vision over the group that did not utilize their lazy eye. Even when swapping the roles in the study (the group that had one eye covered were allowed to try the version of therapy that utilized both eyes), it was found that their vision also improved significantly.
“We have started to think about the condition in a completely different way,” study author Dr. Robert Hess said to the Globe and Mail. “The reason why the eye isn’t working is not because it is lazy, it is because it is actively stopped from working by the signals from the sighted eye in the brain.”
This research may change the way that doctors view amblyopia therapy in adults going forward! What do you think about the decision to use video games as a tool to improve vision? Does this seem counterintuitive to you or do you believe that, when used correctly, they could actually work to improve vision? Share your thoughts in the comments below!