Action Video Games May Boost Vision
Study Findings Could Inspire New Software to Retrain Brain, Rehabilitate Vision
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 8, 2007 -- Action video games may sharpen vision by helping players
learn to ignore visual distractions.
So say University of Rochester brain and cognitive science researchers
Daphne Bavelier, PhD and C. Shawn Green, a graduate student.
They found that novice video game players improved their ability to ignore
visual clutter by about 15% to 20% after playing an action video game for 30
hours over four to six weeks.
But don't toss out your glasses just yet.
The improvements were "very, very small because we're looking at people
that already have very, very good vision," Bavelier tells WebMD.
"We're looking at measures that you probably won't pick up if you were
to just go to your optometrist and have an eye test," she says.
"People think that they're going to replace their prescription lenses
with video games -- no, no, no! This is not what this is about," Bavelier
Video Game Study
Bavelier and Green studied 32 undergraduates who weren't video game players
when the study started.
First, the students looked for the letter "T" written right-side-up
or upside-down amidst various amounts of visual clutter on a computer screen.
The students were timed as they noted whether the "T" was right-side-up
Next, the researchers randomly assigned the students to play one of two
video games for four to six weeks.
One of the games was the action game Unreal Tournament 2004. The other
students played Tetris, which isn't an action game.
About the Games
Unreal Tournament has "a lot richer visual environment than Tetris,"
With Unreal Tournament, "you have to analyze the visual field all the
time for new visual cues. You don't know where they may be. You don't know when
they may appear. You don't know which shape they're going to be," she
"In Tetris, you're also on your toes, because you have to go fast,"
she says. "You have to rotate shapes, but you only have one shape present
at a time, and the analysis you have to do is mostly in terms of mental
rotation, but you have very little analysis of the visual field."
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
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
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.