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Playing Video Games Can Cure Your Lazy Eye

A special version of Tetris can help adults with a lazy eye see

If you’re a kid and an optometrist diagnoses you with a lazy eye, you get to run around with an eye patch and pretend you’re a pirate for a little while. If you’re an adult, you’re faced with a future where your brain decides to ignore your weaker eye, potentially leaving you without three-dimensional vision and a reduced ability to detect motion or contrast. Easily fixed in kids, a lazy eye (amblyopiais pretty much untreatable in adults.

But a promising new bout of research from McGill University’s Robert Hess and colleagues, says the CBC, found that playing Tetris “significantly improves the vision in the weaker eye of someone with lazy eye.” Just playing the game alone isn’t quite enough. The researchers designed a special set of goggles that split the game in two: one eye watched the blocks fall, the other saw the blocks at the bottom of the game board.

After playing Tetris that way for an hour a day for two weeks, nine adults with lazy eye showed a big improvement in the vision of the weaker eye and in their 3D depth perception.

Just getting people to play Tetris with their weak eye alone didn’t illicit the same improvements. It took both eyes working together to stack the blocks to get the desired effect.

“What we have to do is to get the two eyes working together so one eye doesn’t suppress the other eye,” Hess said. He added that there’s nothing special about the Tetris game, and any other visually intensive game or activity that forces the use of both eyes should also be effective.

The Tetris-based approach could also potentially be used in place of giving kids eye patches. Possibly kids should be given a choice—play a video game or get to look like a pirate. Yarr.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Video Games Improve Your Vision
Newly Approved Retinal Implants Can Help Blind People See

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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