20.02.2012

Playing videogames "can improve vision"

Playing videogames "can improve vision"

By Adrian Galbreth

The old adage that staring at a screen can damage your vision has been dispelled in a new study that reveals people who frequently play videogames can actually improve their eyesight.

According to research carried out at McMaster University in Canada, a course of playing videogames can help to combat cataracts.

Led by psychologist Daphne Maurer, the study explains how vision develops in individuals born with cataracts in both eyes, noting that they experience specific visual processing deficiencies into adulthood.

Although glasses and contact lenses can help to correct the condition temporarily, videogames may prove the answer when looking for more long-term solutions, it is claimed.

Dr Maurer notes: "After playing an action videogame for just 40 hours over four weeks, the patients were better at seeing small print, the direction of moving dots, and the identity of faces.

"Those improvements tell us that the adult brain is still plastic enough to be trained to overcome sensory deficiencies."

The expert is renowned internationally for her work with synaesthetes, who are people whose brains mix and link different senses, such as those who literally hear a colour.

For example, every time a particular note is played on the piano, some people perceive a specific colour, and Dr Maurer is seeking to cure or at least assist these people.

She noted that the condition is more common than expected, and runs in families, with her team of experts opening up new ways of understanding the development of perception and language.

"Our work suggests that babies and toddlers start out with a bit of synaesthesia that usually goes underground as we develop," she explained.

The findings of each of the studies were presented at this week's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, and may lead to new therapies for synaesthetes and those suffering from cataracts.

by Adrian Galbreth


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