It’s not the sort of advice you might expect from your optometrist but current research from McGill University in Canada suggests that playing the video game Tetris may be an effective way of improving a lazy (amblyopic) eye.
Good vision requires more than just a healthy eye. The eye sends electrical signals via the optic nerve to the part of the brain used for visual processing. We call this process the visual pathway or visual system. The visual system is not fully developed at birth. Good development requires each eye to be seeing well in order to build the connections between the eye and the brain. If one eye sees better than the other, the connections it builds will be stronger, leading to a dominant eye that suppresses the other one. This development continues from birth until about 8 years old.
During this time there is a chance to balance the two eyes by covering the stronger eye forcing the weaker eye to behave better. This is only successful in some children and generally accepted not to work in adults at all. The earlier that treatment is started the better the outcome. This is why eye testing from about 3 years old is advised in all children. This should be even earlier if you have a family history of eye problems, if you think you see a squint in your child’s eyes or have any concerns that they are not seeing well.
So could video games offer the answer to improving vision in adults who currently have no other treatment options? By connecting differently shaped blocks as they fall in Tetris, the eyes are forced to cooperate with each other, alleviating suppression of the weaker eye and retraining the brain to use both equally. Results from recent research suggested promising improvements in the vision of the weaker eye and in 3D perception.
Unfortunately kids, this has not been trialed on children yet, although an American trial is planned for later this year. So while we are not advising video games over homework quite yet, this might bag you another few minutes on your DS!