A brand new study suggests that playing video games may actually have health benefits for children with visual disabilities. These video games worked especially well with children who had problems with peripheral vision.
This study looked at visually impaired children who played certain video games for eight hours straight. When the time was up, researchers found that in a few cases the children increased their vision by as much as 50 percent.
This study took place at both Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester. 24 visually impaired children were chosen from both Tennessee and Oklahoma Schools for the Blind for this study. These children were then split up into three groups, each of which played a different video game. One group played Tetris, a second group played the popular game Ratchet & Clank, and the third group played an action game made by the researchers.
Unsurprisingly, the group that played the researchers' game showed marked improvement in their vision. Interestingly, however, the children who played Ratchet & Clank showed great improvement in their vision as well. The children who played Tetris showed no improvement.
By training the peripheral vision, researchers found that children were able to make great gains in the visual department within only a few hours. Thankfully, these results lasted over the long term as well. When the children were tested a year later, these visual improvements were still observed in the children's eyes.
A few of the benefits observed from playing video games included students being able to track objects moving in their peripheral vision, seeing letters on a visual chart from great distances, and the ability to distinguish items clearer in cluttered spaces.
The game designers for the university's' game took elements they thought would be most beneficial for the children's peripheral vision from action video games. This game was full of flying objects crisscrossing the screen. The objective of the game was to pick out one item that only briefly appears on the sides of the screen.
Jeffrey Nyquist, the founder and CEO of the Michigan-based VR company NeuroTrainer, joined the professors from both universities in devising this study. Nyquist told reporters that he believes this study proves that most of the issues children have with peripheral vision are attentional. With video games that focus on the peripheral field of vision, Nyquist believes this issue can be corrected over time.
Some features of these games that really helped the children work their peripheral vision included pulling their attention to unexpected items on the far sides of the screen. Being able to recognize and react to these peripheral items, especially when there's a great deal of distraction in the middle of the screen, proved to be a great visual exercise.
One researcher, Professor Duje Tadin from the University of Rochester, told researchers that children with visual problems often have difficulties because the focus too much of their attention on simply seeing straight. This weakens their peripheral vision. This is a huge problem for the children because the weakening of the periphery decreases eye mobility and leads to more serious visual issues as they grow older.
Nyquist and others were surprised by the amazing improvements they saw in the children's vision. They are all hopeful this research will lead to new and successful treatments for children suffering from visual impairments around the world.