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Could Tetris spell the end of the eye patch Scientists use computer game to treat lazy eye
Tetris can be used to train both eyes to work togetherCurrently people with lazy eye wear eye patch to force the weaker eye to work but its not effective in adultsTetris technique resulted in 'dramatic' improvement
08:02 GMT, 25 April 2013
08:02 GMT, 25 April 2013
Tetris could spell the end of the eye patch for people with lazy eye
The computer game Tetris could spell the end of the eye patch for people with lazy eye.
Researchers have found a way of using the game to treat adult amblyopia by training both eyes to work together.
The breakthrough provides direct evidence that forcing both eyes to co-operate increases the level of plasticity in the brain and allows the amblyopic brain to relearn.
Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, affecting up to three in 100 people.
It occurs when the vision in one eye does not develop properly.
This means the person can see less clearly from the underdeveloped eye meaning they rely heavily on their other eye.
If untreated, it can lead to permanent loss of vision in the affected eye.
Previous treatments for the disorder, which have focused largely on covering the stronger eye in order to force the weaker eye to work, have proved only partially successful in children and have been ineffective in adults.
Study leader Doctor Robert Hess, Director of the Research Department of Ophthalmology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said: ‘The key to improving vision for adults, who currently have no other treatment options, was to set up conditions that would enable the two eyes to cooperate for the first time in a given task.’
The researchers examined the potential of treating amblyopic adults using Tetris, which involves connecting different shaped blocks as they fall to the ground.
Dr Hess said: ‘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.
‘Forcing the eyes to work together, we believed, would improve vision in the lazy eye.’
The researchers tested a sample of 18 adults with amblyopia.
Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, affecting up to three in 100 people
Nine participants played the game with the weaker eye, while the stronger eye was patched.
The other nine played the same game dichoptically, where each eye was allowed to view a separate part of the game.
After two weeks, the group playing the dichoptic game showed a ‘dramatic’ improvement in the vision of the weaker eye as well as in 3D depth perception.
When the patching-wearing group, who had shown only a moderate improvement, was switched to the new dichoptic training, the vision of this group also improved dramatically.
Now the suitability of the treatment in children will be assessed later this year in a clinical trial.
The research was published in the journal Current Biology.