Action Video Games Sharpen Vision 20 Percent

Video games that contain high levels of action, such as Unreal Tournament, can actually improve your vision.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have shown that people who played action video games for a few hours a day over the course of a month improved by about 20 percent in their ability to identify letters presented in clutter–a visual acuity test similar to ones used in regular ophthalmology clinics.

In essence, playing video game improves your bottom line on a standard eye chart.

“Action video game play changes the way our brains process visual information,” says Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “After just 30 hours, players showed a substantial increase in the spatial resolution of their vision, meaning they could see figures like those on an eye chart more clearly, even when other symbols crowded in.”

Bavelier and graduate student Shawn Green tested college students who had played few, if any, video games in the last year. “That alone was pretty tough,” says Green. “Nearly everybody on a campus plays video games.”

At the outset, the students were given a crowding test, which measured how well they could discern the orientation of a “T” within a crowd of other distracting symbols—a sort of electronic eye chart. Students were then divided into two groups. The experimental group played Unreal Tournament, a first-person shoot-’em-up action game, for roughly an hour a day. The control group played Tetris, a game equally demanding in terms of motor control, but visually less complex.

After about a month of near-daily gaming, the Tetris players showed no improvement on the test, but the Unreal Tournament players could tell which way the “T” was pointing much more easily than they had just a month earlier.

“When people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing,” says Bavelier. “These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and possibly everyday life.”

The improvement was seen both in the part of the visual field where video game players typically play, but also beyond—the part of your vision beyond the monitor. The students’ vision improved in the center and at the periphery where they had not been “trained.” That suggests that people with visual deficits, such as amblyopic patients, may also be able to gain an increase in their visual acuity with special rehabilitation software that reproduces an action game’s need to identify objects very quickly.

The team is now delving into how the brain responds to other visual stimuli. They plan to use what would be a video gamer’s dream: a new 360-degree virtual-reality computer lab now being completed at the University of Rochester.
This research appears next week in the journal Psychological Science, and was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

From University of Rochester

9 COMMENTS

  1. People who take gaming seriously have quicker reflexes, cause they adapt the rule of “Be ready for anything!” to real life as well.

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  2. Who has time to eat when they play video games especially Unreal. “Hey I dropped my chip, Now where did it go?(process of looking for dropped chip and playing game) CRAP!! I died.” Apparently, you’re working out your eyes here, would you eat a candy bar while you are working your body out? NO!! I’m sick of people thinking that if you play video games you are a fat, lazy man. I invest a lot of hours into playing games, but I still have time to lift weights. Of-course I am only 19 years old, but I vow to never be fat and lazy. Okay, now that’s off my chest, I really liked the article. I personally thought that my eyes were getting worse but maybe it is because I do not play fast enough games. Seriously though whoever wrote the first post should lay off the pie.

  3. I’m a hard core PC gamer and a UT fanboy, so hearing news like this is really exciting. I bet everyone a bazillion dollars that you will never hear about this in the big news.

    Anyways, video games are responsible for pushing technology to the limits. Without them, we could still be staring into an old CRT that displays green text… and PCs may have never made it to everyones house hold.

    Now we hear that certain games can improve vision. I also once read an artical that games can also improve memory. If more people would do serious research like this I wouldn’t be surprised how much more good they will find…

  4. There is a 20% improvement in identifying letters in a cluster. Who cares! Sitting in the chair all that time, avoiding social contact, eating whatever is at hand, having useless goals like “killing” the other guy… The negative side effects far outweight this tiny positive. Maybe if they sat there eating healthy chocolate it’d be ok. Bah. I like pie.

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