Playing a first-person shooter game can improve the vision of adults born with cataracts, a small study has found. According to a New York Times Q&A with one of the study scientists, the improvement process probably takes advantage of the adult brain's ability to change and grow — an ability that scientists discovered not too long ago. The study opens up the possibility that it could be easy and fun for adults with certain vision impairments to improve their vision.
People born with cataracts get surgery and corrective lenses as soon as possible, but they still suffer from reduced vision as adults, developmental psychologist Daphne Maurer of McMaster University in Ontario told the New York Times. Part of the problem is that they lose out on a critical period of early brain development, which Maurer showed through a different study.
The psychologist hit on the idea of testing video games in visually impaired adults after reading about new studies about growth in the adult brain and about video games' effects on normal vision.
She recruited seven adults to play Medal of Honor for four weeks, 10 hours a week. She warned them of a lot of caveats:
Of course, we warned of potential risks: The game was violent — they would have to wield a symbolic gun and blow away their 'enemies' on a screen. It could increase aggression. The game could be addictive.
After the study, most of the volunteers were able to see smaller details, pick out lower-contrast images and sense the direction of motion better than before.
First-person shooters exercise just the right skills for improving vision, Maurer said, by requiring players to respond quickly and to monitor a large area on-screen.
She's now working on a game that could offer the same benefits, but isn't violent. She herself isn't much of a gamer. "I'm a reader," she told the Times. "My husband and I don't have children. So computer games wouldn't be a part of our lives. I've never played one. I can't imagine enjoying playing one."
Source: New York Times