Have you ever imagined that a vision therapy for lazy eye may include playing video games? I bet, you haven’t. Yet, a pilot study held at UC Berkley and sponsored by NEI found that adults suffering from lazy eye can improve eyesight naturally by playing video games.
“The study is the first to show that video games is useful for improving vision in adults with amblyopia,” said study lead author Dr. Roger Li, research optometrist at the School of Optometry and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley.
Lazy eye (amblyopia) is the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye. It can result from failure to use both eyes together and is usually associated with large difference in the refractive power of the eyes. Conventional treatment of lazy eye includes a combination of correction lenses, eye patching and vision therapy for lazy eye. However, adults don’t respond that well to these treatments.
“These new findings are very encouraging because there are currently no accepted treatments for adults with amblyopia,” said study principal investigator Dr. Dennis Levi, UC Berkeley professor and dean of optometry and a researcher at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. “A lot of eye doctors start closing the books on successful treatment after age 8 or so because of the widespread belief that amblyopia can only be reversed during a critical window of development in the visual cortex. If the disorder is not corrected in childhood, the damage was thought to be irreversible.”
Twenty people with lazy eye, ages 15 to 61, participated in the study. Half of the participants had strabismic amblyopia, 6 had anisometropic amblyopia, in which the two eyes have significantly different prescriptions, 3 had both conditions, and one subject had amblyopia caused by cataracts in one eye.
During the vision therapy for lazy eye, participants were asked to play an action game, which required them to shoot at targets, and a non-action game, which required subjects to construct something. Two experiments were conducted. In the first experiment, half of the participants were asked to play the action video game for a total of 40 hours, 2 hours at a time, over the course of a month. In the second experiment three other participants played the non-action video game for the same amount of time. The participants wore an eye patch over their good eye while they were playing.
The results of both experiments showed a 30% improvement in visual acuity or an average improvement of 1,5 line on the standard eye chart. There was no major difference in visual acuity improvement among the different types of amblyopia but the people with anisometropic amblyopia experienced 50% improvement of their 3D depth perception.
“I didn’t expect to see this type of improvement” said Dr. Roger Li.
Video game vision therapy for lazy eye seems promising and the researchers received $1,7 million from NEI to compare video game therapy with the use of eye patches to treat amblyopia in children and adults in a randomized clinical trial.
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