Playing shooters can help correct impaired vision, a Canadian research team has found.
AFP reports a McMaster University study asked six patients aged between 19 and 31, all with a rare eye disorder, to play Medal of Honor for 40 hours, in two hour bursts on five days each week.
At the conclusion of the trial, the patients showed eyesight improvement equivalent to reading two extra lines on an eye chart. Some reached 20/20 vision, having started between 20/32 and 20/100, and were better at recognising faces, reading small print and judging the direction of moving dots.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, lead investigator Daphne Maurer said she was a bit cagey about violent games and the potential for addiction, but that the results were worth it.
“About two-thirds of the things we measured improved simply from playing an action videogame. I think it tells us that the visual nervous system is still plastic enough to either form or reveal connections in adulthood, and we suspect that might be true for any kind of visual defect,” she said.
Mauer said that shooters increase levels of dopamine and adrenaline in players’ brains – which may prime it for improvements.
“It is also called adrenaline for action, because you not only have to make a judgment based on what is going on on the screen but you have to act on it and you have to act on it from a real world perspective. So we think the manufacturers built into these games the effective ingredients for retraining the visual brain in adulthood,” she said.
Her team, in collaboration with others, is now working on building a non-violent game with the same qualities.
Mauer didn’t say whether shooters are likely to improve vision in general; the patients involved in the study had been born with cataracts in both eyes, requiring surgery and glasses or contacts, and temporarily lost eyesight at a very young age, leaving them with impaired vision in adulthood.