We’ve heard a lot of reasons not to encourage kids to play video games, but now it seems the retro tile-matching puzzle may hold the key to ailing the most common cause of visual impairment for children.
Amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’, is a condition which affects both children and adults alike. The condition occurs when one eye fails to develop properly, causing impaired vision capabilities, often accompanied by a squint.
While the condition is very common, if left untreated, it can result in permanent loss of vision in the weaker eye – hence why early intervention is highly recommended.
Most of the time children are forced to endure wearing an eye patch. The often frustrating and unpleasant experience is designed to make the weaker eye work harder by covering the stronger one.
But Canadian doctors set out to see if there was a better way to deal with this common issue – this time using both eyes.
The researchers, from McGill University began by trailing the game using a group of adults. Nine volunteers with amblyopia were asked to wear a special pair of video goggles that would make both eyes ‘work as a team’.
The special goggles allowed one eye to see the falling coloured blocks while the other allowed the player to view the wall of blocks accumulating on the ground.
Another group of nine volunteers, all with lazy eye, wore similar goggles but had their ‘good eye’ covered, forcing them to watch through their weak eye.
They found the Tetris-treatment produced better results for those participants who were forced to use both their eyes than the one-eyed group (whose vision was significantly improved after being given the chance to try the other goggles).
The study’s lead author, Dr Robert Hess, believes the game proved to be a much better alternative to patching, especially for adults who tend not to benefit as much from this method.
“When we get the two eyes working together, we find the vision improves,” Dr Hess told reporters.
“It’s much better than patching, much more enjoyable, it’s faster and it seems to work better,” he argued pointing out that a number of other computer games, apart from Tetris, could also work.
The research suggests that amblyopia may actually be a two-eyed problem, making patching more of a hindrance than a help for lazy eyes.
“Forcing both eyes to co-operate increases the level of plasticity or adaptability in the brain and allows the weak eye to relearn how to see,” Hess explained to the reporters.