Playing video games has, in recent times been found to subtly improve some common eye conditions by encouraging the brain to work harder to complete the tasks. New research suggests that the classic 80s game of Tetris could provide support for sufferers of amblyopia (‘lazy eye’).
Amblyopia (also known as ‘lazy eye’) is a condition affecting nearly 3% of the population. It is caused by the brain failing to process properly, causing the weaker eye to be suppressed by the stronger eye. People who suffer from amblyopia may have a noticeable inability to focus properly with one eye, making it appear as though one eye is looking in a different direction to the other. It can also affect the sufferer’s ability to perceive clear images, making it difficult to carry out daily activities such as driving and reading.
The treatments currently available to sufferers of amblyopia include covering the stronger eye with a patch to strengthen the weaker eye, but the solutions are limited and are primarily available to children.
However new research could provide new hope for adult amblyopia patients. Tetris is the classic video game that has earned cult-status since its release in 1984. Since 2005, over 100 million copies of the game have been sold. The game requires the player to monitor the movement of shaped blocks to guide them into suitable gaps.
The study was led by Dr. Robert Hess, Director of the Research Department of Opthalmology at McGill University who discovered that Tetris requires both eyes to work together and can train the brain. This is based on the understanding that the brain has a high level of plasticity, meaning problems occurring during early development, can be improved with appropriate training.
Participants were issued with head-mounted video goggles to show each eye a different part of the game. One eye was shown the falling shapes, whilst the other was able to see the stationary blocks at the bottom of the screen. This encourages the eyes to work together to play the game. Of the 18 patients who participated in the study, the 9 who used this method showed significant vision improvement in their weaker eye after just 2 weeks.
The remaining 9 patients played the game with the traditional patch method of covering the stronger eye. Whilst they also showed an improvement, the results were more promising for the dichoptic testing.
It is hoped that this new research could offer positive solutions for adult sufferers of amblyopia.