Can Video Games Help with Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)?

Amblyopia patients seeking help with their visual condition must rely on the elasticity of the adult brain for retraining its response to stimuli. Vision therapy for amblyopia typically consists of exercises that assist the brain in learning new ways to compensate for the disconnect between the eye and the brain.

Serendipitously for amblyopia patients, advancement in video game technology has led to an increase in the complexity of coordination between the hands, the eye, and the brain’s response to visual sensation while playing. This kind of complexity means video games could help lazy eye patients learn to cope with their condition.

A study to determine whether monocular training (essentially covering the favored eye and using the neglected eye for a particular focused task) or dichoptic training (stimulating both eyes at the same time for a particular focused task) would have better results in helping the brain to form new connections with the amblyopic eye used video games as their focused task to form a basis for their theory.

Both groups who underwent the study showed “significant improvements in visual acuity” after spending 1 hour a day for 2 weeks playing Tetris. The underlying goal of this study was to determine if monocular or dichoptic training was the more effective treatment, but in using video games for amblyopia treatment, this study also showed the positive effects video game therapy can have for lazy eye.

Other Treatments and How Video Games Play a Role

Patients can integrate video games with any of the 6 amblyopia therapy treatments currently recommended by specialists.

  1. Patching of the unaffected eye with prescribed activities – Although the aforementioned study stated significantly better results when playing with both eyes trained on the screen, patching still saw improvement when the prescribed activity was playing a video game.
  2. Binocular vision exercises – Binocular exercises train both eyes to better see depth by overlapping their fields of view. Since many video games take place in three-dimensional worlds, their physics help encourage the brain to overlay the images to help complete in-game goals.
  3. Accommodation (focusing) tasks – The heads-up-displays (HUDs) of most games contain readable information that appears as if in the foreground of the action. The brain is forced to attempt to focus more accurately to successfully shift from action to HUD.
  4. Pursuit (eye tracking) activities – Most of today’s action video games are high-speed and require eye movement that is rapid to react in time to avoid negative consequences. Quick movements challenge the brain to track movement while avoiding obstacles.
  5. Rapid eye movement and fixation exercises – Intense concentration on certain areas of the screen and quick, darting movements force the eye to adapt quickly to every-changing conditions and environments.
  6. Spatial skill tests – Puzzles that require spatial reasoning to complete are commonplace in adventure video games. Hero characters often have to manipulate objects in 3D space, which may help the brain learn better how to compensate for compromised spatial skills in real life.

One of the greatest advantages of training lazy eye with video games is that it tends to be more engaging than manual exercises, especially for those who have an inherent enthusiasm for playing games. Improving brain function while performing activities with superior entertainment value is a win-win for amblyopia patients.

For more information on Amblyopia and to get started on your path to vision recovery, visit OCVT’s vision therapy resource today.

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