Do you worry that those countless hours playing video games are hurting your eyes? Your fears might be unfounded – in fact, you could be doing your vision a favor.
A small study spearheaded by developmental psychologist Daphne Maurer suggests that certain types of games can help improve visual acuity. Not for just anyone, though, and not just any game. There’s always a catch.
This study focused on patients that Dr. Maurer had worked with on long-term studies of the effect of sensory deprivation, namely impaired vision, on children. Some were born with cataracts, while others developed cataracts later. All had surgery to remove the cataracts as young children. Now adults, seven of those patients volunteered to be part of the study.
Maurer set them up playing Medal of Honor, a first-person shooter (FPS) in which the player sees on screen exactly what his or her character sees. After a month of playing ten hours a week, never more than two hours at a time, all seven patients experienced improvement in their vision.
“Some were seeing better with their better eye or with their worse eye - or with both. Most improved in their ability to see direction of motion. They could see smaller details. They were able to see things that are in lower contrast,” Maurer said in an interview with The New York Times.
Maurer wasn’t studying the effect on the eyes themselves, but on the parts of the brain that process visual input. First-person shooters cause adrenaline and dopamine levels to rise in the brain and, she hypothesized, “may make the brain more plastic.” In other words, the cues in the game that require quick action by the player might be helping the brain rewire itself to respond better to visual stimuli.
So video games might not be a cure-all for everyone with bad vision. Still, it appears that they are able to help some people with specific issues.
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