There are very few treatments to help adults combat amblyopia, commonly called "lazy eye," but new research coming out of UC Berkeley suggests off-the-shelf video games may help.
Traditional therapy (primarily among children) sees the patient wearing an eye patch over their "good" eye, forcing the other, under-developed eye to focus.
In this experiment, twenty participants wore an eye patch while playing a total of 40 hours (split into twenty sessions) of one of two games: either first-person shooter Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault
and EA's SimCity Societies
Both games yielded the same results: a 30 percent increase in visual acuity, or an improvement of 1.5 lines on the standard optometrist eye chart. By comparison, traditional eye patch therapy can take three times as long to improve by only one line.
To check whether the results were due to the eye patch or the games, the researchers conducted an additional experiment where seven new volunteers wore a patch over their good eye for twenty hours during normal activity, which resulted in "no improvement" on vision tests. These same volunteers then went through the 40-hour video game test, and showed the same level of improvement as in the previous study.
"I was very surprised by this finding -- I didn't expect to see this type of improvement," said researcher Roger Li, an optometrist at the University of California, Berkeley.
The researchers say that they are customizing a non-violent game to conduct the experiment on children, as an alternative to having to wear an eye patch in their day-to-day lives.
More information on the study is available in this LiveScience article