Doctors may start prescribing a dose of violent conflict, if a trial confirms evidence that computer gaming improves eyesight.
Six years ago Daphne Bavelier at the University of Rochester, New York, exploded the myth that gaming is bad for your eyes by showing that expert gamers outperform non-gamers at a variety of visual tasks. Now she has demonstrated that playing action-packed video games improves a person's ability to perceive contrast, a skill we rely on in dark conditions.
The finding raises the prospect that people with amblyopia, sometimes known as "lazy eye", could be treated with games.
Bavelier's team randomly assigned 13 healthy young adults, who did not previously play video games, to play either action games like the first-person shooter Unreal Tournament or more sedate titles such as The Sims for 50 hours over nine weeks.
Tests before and after showed that the contrast perception of both groups improved - the action-game group improved by 43% and 11% in the other group. The effect persisted for months, even when people didn't play games at all.
The study is the first indication that contrast sensitivity can be altered without corrective lenses or surgery, says Bavelier. Her work has inspired Dennis Levi and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, to begin a trial to see whether gaming can help people with amblyopia.
Bavelier's results show gaming's potential for clinical treatment, says Lotfi Merabet, a neuroscientist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who uses games for visual rehabilitation. He predicts gaming will become increasingly common as a clinical tool.
Via New Scientist