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Researchers use Tetris to treat lazy eye, give patients an excuse to play a game

Chris Brandrick | April 25, 2013
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have turned to popular puzzler Tetris as a method to help treat adult amblyopia

As it turns out, the falling blocks of Tetris can double as a treatment for adult amblyopia, otherwise known as "lazy eye." Researchers at the McGill University of Montreal are testing the 80s puzzler as an alternative to using more conventional treatments for the disorder.

Amblyopia is a condition where your vision is weakened in an eye that seems normal in just about every other way. It most often occurs in only one eye, and it can cause problems with depth perception, among other issues. To treat it, doctors will typically have patients put an eyepatch over their stronger eye, forcing them to use their weaker eye, thus making it stronger. This treatment method is somewhat effective in children, but it doesn't do much of anything to help adults.

With that in mind, the McGill research team turned to other options, exploring alternatives that may benefit adults who suffer from the vision disorder. And according to the research team, patients who played a specialized version of Tetris reportedly experienced a four-fold improvement in their lazy eye's vision when compared to just wearing a patch.

Patients wore special head-mounted video goggles that displayed a purpose-built version of the game in a "dichoptic" fashion. In other words, the lazy eye was presented with a higher-contrast version of the game, whereas the more dominant eye was presented with a lower-contrast version. This unique presentation method made it so both eyes would work together, in turn making the lazy eye stronger.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Hess, who led the research, considers this therapeutic approach to be a "huge step in dealing with amblyopia," adding that eye training of this sort should become a standard treatment.


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