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Action Video Games May Boost Vision

Study Findings Could Inspire New Software to Retrain Brain, Rehabilitate Vision
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Playing Video Games for Science

The researchers asked students to play their assigned game for 30 hours over four to six weeks. They told the students not to play for more than two hours a day.

At the end of the study, the students repeated the visual clutter test.

Those who played Unreal Tournament 2004 showed a 15% to 20% improvement in the test, Green tells WebMD in an email. Those playing Tetris showed no such improvement.

Bavelier's team wasn't looking for the hottest video game player. Instead, they wanted to see whether the brain's visual cortex -- the part of the brain that processes vision -- can be retrained.

The study suggests that that may be possible, which might be good news for people with visual cortex problems.

"If you have a lesion there, for example, your eye is fine, but the information reaches the brain and then gets lost because there's not the right hardware to process it," Bavelier says.

She and her colleagues are working to develop a training regimen for patients with amblyopia (also called "lazy eye") in which the brain shuts down vision in the weaker eye to avoid double vision.

The training regimen will include "some of the ingredients of what we think is important in video games," Bavelier says.

Playtime?

The study "doesn't mean that you can go and play for hours at a time," Bavelier says. "The study doesn't show that video games are good for you in general."

"We are interested in brain plasticity," she says, referring to the brain's ability to be retrained.

"Video games are amazing tools for reopening brain plasticity," Bavelier says. "But for your everyday, average person, that doesn't mean that suddenly they can go on a binge of video games and life will be better. There is more to life than just your visual system."

The study is due for publication next week in Psychological Science.

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