Fixing Lazy Eyes with Video Games

Fixing Lazy Eyes with Video Games

British doctors are using a Tetris-like game to correct lazy eyes in children, showing how video games may not ruin your vision after all.

The game of building blocks aims to help children with amblyopia, or lazy eye, and works through special goggles developed by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University. The device lets one eye see the pieces perfectly clear, while the other is fuzzy, forcing the weaker eye to work harder. So far, the team says it has had good results.

Such technology helps doctors and researchers uncover different treatment methods by being able to target a specific problem, like a weakened eye.

The test runs show video games don’t just fry up brain cells or strain eyes — the medical community can use them as powerful visual stimuli to help eyesight, as gaming is re-purposed from entertainment into solutions for medical or social concerns.

More than half of children who played the puzzle-block computer game saw their vision restored, and some were able to see in 3D for the first time. The device, though not yet commercially available, worked well in older test subjects, while traditional treatments like wearing an eye patch work best on kids under 7.

“This is an extremely encouraging study,” said research Dr. Anita Simmers. “To treat a lazy eye with a patch, we need to get children to do intense visual work because if you use the eye it will get better, but it was very difficult to get young children to do that. It is much easier to get a child to sit for an hour in front of a computer game.”

The use of video games to help treat eye problems may seem a bit counter-intuitive, as screen play is often linked to bad vision. In Taiwan, for instance, nearly two-thirds of sixth graders are nearsighted, which some link to lengthy exposure to small screens.

But there’s a growing switch into using video games for a greater purpose than entertainment. Productive educational games were promoted by President Barack Obama, and some studies show gameplay can increase brainpower and develop strategic thinking.

Using video games in treatment can help both parents and children with serious medical concerns have a better time going to the doctor’s office. The developments from this particular invention show how computerized technology is an innovative way to target a specific problem with a tailored solution, one of many research projects that can help millions of people around the world.

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