Video Games Good for Your Vision?

a recent study says so:

Action video games heighten contrast sensitivity — indicating a possible method to improve eyesight in pilots or those with impaired vision.

Contrast sensitivity (CS), the ability to detect subtle differences in shading, is a core component of vision that declines with age or with illness but is necessary for object recognition, attention, and driving at night. These researchers examined whether changes in neural processing of visual information could enhance CS in young adults with normal sight.

CS was measured by how accurately subjects could recognize a low-contrast gray-scale area on a computer screen. First, 10 expert action video game players were found to have significantly greater CS at various spatial frequencies than sex- and age-matched nonaction gamers. Then, in a "training" study, 13 nongamers played 50 hours of two action video games or an equally complex and engaging but slower-paced video game (as a control). After training, the action-trained group, but not the control-trained group, had significant improvement of CS (by 43%–58%). In separate studies, detection speed was faster in the groups of expert action game players and action-trained nongamers than in their comparator groups.

Comment: This study suggests that neuroplasticity enhanced by game playing can improve CS in people with normal vision. An editorialist notes that if this is so, game playing might improve vision in individuals with impaired sight and in those whose vision should be enhanced (e.g., pilots). People with ADHD or with attentional disorders associated with neurological insults might benefit from training the brain to process rapidly shifting visual sets. Action video games appear to address many dimensions of information processing, and their benefit generalizes to different situations, not just playing other video games.
— Steven Dubovsky, MD
Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry June 8, 2009


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