New research published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that action-based video games can improve vision. It is believed that human’s visual acuity cannot be improved significantly to differentiate among shades of gray. However, Professor Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester, has shown that with much practice video games packed with action can improve this ability by up to 58 percent. This type of improvement is typically only seen with corrective lenses.
These action games appear to facilitate the processing of visual information and with practice visual improvements can be maintained for many months without continued gaming. Bavelier claims that playing action games can reduce visual crowding, which is the main factor restraining visual perception.
The study observed the contrast sensitivity of 22 students separated into two groups. The first group played 50 hours of Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty over 9 weeks, whereas the second group played 50 hours of Sims 2 over 9 weeks. Although Sims 2 is quite visual, it lacks the visual-motor coordination. Results showed a 43% improvement in differentiating shades of gray for those in the first group who played the action packed video games, while those who played Sims 2 showed no improvement at all.
"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, and we've seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over."
Video gaming has certainly taken its share of grief over the years. Research typically points toward the negative aspects of gaming such as photosensitive epilepsy, headaches, hallucinations, nerve and muscle damages, social problems, behaviour problems etc.; however the multi-million dollar industry has evolved to work against such claims and provide more therapeutic games that aim to rehabilitate and improve physical and mental abilities. Could the use of action-based video games be yet another therapeutic tool? A tool that can correct vision without the use of glasses?
Action Video Games Improve Vision, New Research Shows