The Daily Californian Online

Study: Video Games May Improve Vision

By Arielle Turner
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Category: Sci/Tech

Patricia Kim/Illustration

Video games may not be as bad as your mother told you, according to two new campus studies that connect video game use to improved eyesight.

A current study at UC Berkeley has linked playing video games with improvement in vision for people with amblyopia, commonly known as "lazy eye," a condition in which one eye is stronger than the other.

Preliminary results indicate that playing the games improved subjects' vision in their weaker eyes by 45 to 50 percent, compared to subjects who did not play games.

The study, conducted by School of Optometry Dean Dennis Levi, tested adults with amblyopia by having them play action video games, passive video games or perform unsupervised activities. All participants wore patches over their strong eyes.

While the group that did not play any games showed no improvement in vision, both game-playing groups demonstrated marked improvement.

The game-playing groups played either Medal of Honor, a shoot-em-up action game, or The Sims, a non-action game.

"The good news is that our results look like it doesn't matter what kind of video game they play," Levi said.

Currently, treatments for amblyopia only exist for children with the condition. The study seeks to find ways of treating the problem in adults.

"Right now both treatments are for children," said Charlie Ngo, a student in the UC Berkeley School of Optometry who worked on the study. "We're trying to find ways to improve vision for adults."

The data from the first round of experiments is still being analyzed. Levi said he hopes to publish the preliminary results and start testing new groups of subjects this summer.

The study follows research by Daphne Bavelier, co-director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging and associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, which showed that playing action video games led to a 43 percent increase in contrast vision for people with normal vision.

"Her research showed that adults who played video games actually are better at ... a number of different tasks than non-video game players, and a number of those kind of tasks that she tested were things that people with amblyopia have difficulty doing," Levi said. "So that sort of inspired us to try having amblyopes play video games just to see if that would improve their vision."

Levi said he plans to work with Bavelier for future studies with the Macdonald Foundation on vision and brain plasticity.

He added that the research's implications contradict the common stereotype that video games are detrimental.

"I think all of the data so far suggest that not only are video games not bad for your eyesight, but they're good for your brain," Levi said.


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