Forget carrots. If you want better eyesight, put down the rabbit food and get your game on, because researchers have found playing action video games can actually improve an important aspect of vision.
“Contrast sensitivity” is a basic but important part of visual perception and one of the first aspects to degenerate with age. Those with good contrast sensitivity can discern very small changes in shades of grey when placed against a uniform background and cope well driving at night and in poor visibility.
Those with poor contrast sensitivity have several options to improve their sight, such as eye surgery, contact lenses or glasses. But now there may be another way forward as a team of researchers from the University of Rochester have found that playing video games could actually improve a gamers’ eyesight.
“We’ve found that action videogames train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after game play stopped,” said Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester, New York.
But, it has to be action video games, say the researchers. Even though the test was small, they did find that those of their test gamers who played the action video games Call of Duty 2 and Unreal Tournament 2004 had better contrast sensitivity after the nine week test compared with those gamers who played non-action video games, in this case The Sims2. This was put down to the need for greater visual alertness in action video games where instant reactions were necessary in unpredictable environments.
Even more surprising to the researchers, who had until now assumed that contrast sensitivity could not be improved by training the eye, was that most regular players of action video games see improvement of about 50% after around 50 hours of playing, and that effect could persist for months or even years after their most recent session.
“When people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it,” added Bavelier.