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Study: Tetris effective in treating lazy eye

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Contrary to popular opinion, video games can be good for your eyes.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have found that puzzle games, especially the classic block-dropper Tetris, are effective in helping treat patients with amblyopia, better known as lazy eye.

In a study published in Current Biology, researchers said patients who used Tetris in their treatment regimen showed a four-fold improvement in their lazy eye compared to those who simply used a patch, the traditional treatment for the condition.

The study targeted adults who have historically not responded to traditional treatment for lazy eye. All of them played Tetris for an hour a day for about six weeks, but half did so with a patch over their good eye, while the others used no patch.

As it turned out, those who played using both eyes did better long-term.

"Using head-mounted video goggles, we were able to display the game dichoptically, where one eye was allowed to see only the falling objects and the other eye was allowed to see only the ground-plane objects," said ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Hess, who led the studi. "And it turns out the more they do that, the more the two eyes work together for the first time ever for them, the stronger it becomes and the more we can increase the contrast in the good eye, higher and higher, and bring it all the way up so the contrast is the same.”

“We know they're doing it because they're playing a video game, where to increase the contrast, they need to get a good score. And to get a good score, they need to have combined the information in two eyes."

Lazy eye occurs in three to four percent of the population in early childhood. While the eye itself is fine, problems with the brain's visual cortex cause it to be unable to see details in sharp focus and prevent many people with the condition from seeing in 3D.

The study marks a notable advance in treatment of amblyopia, since the patch carries such a stigma for children – and is not entirely effective with them. The patch does not work for adults.

While this test focused on adults, researchers are expanding it to included children as part of a worldwide clinical trial.

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