Dr. Uri Polat, an eye and brain specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Goldschleger Eye Research Institute has partnered with researchers at the Brain and Vision Lab at the University of Rochester in New York to develop a video game treatment to correct lazy eye disorders in children and adults.
Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is traditionally corrected by wearing an eye patch. This method has a limited success rate even after hundreds of hours of treatment and it only seems to work in children under the age of nine. For this reason, most health specialists have not pursued treatment for children after that age and even less so with with adults, until now. Read More...
"You see these poor kids in kindergarten wearing the patch. Everyone hates it, especially the parents who know what it's doing to their kid's self-esteem," said Polat in a news release. "My aim is to not only treat adults, but to treat kids using a computer two or three times a week, one hour each time, without the need for them having to wear a patch."
Polat’s concept works by rectifying the brain’s neural activity which leads to the condition. In his treatment, patients watch special and random objects appear on a computer screen, keeping their vision constantly alert and forcing the eyes and brain to adjust.
The original version of Polat’s treatment he admits was a little bit boring. Through his partnership with Dr. Daphne Bavelier of Rochester University, a video game version of the therapy is being developed for children, though the concept could easily be adapted to adults. Bavelier’s Brain and Vision Lab has been studying the effects of video games on visual attention. Bavelier and Polat also recently collaborated on a study published in Nature Neuroscience, showing that action video games can improve the vision of young people with normal vision.
Though none of the lab’s scientists have video game design experience, their years of research give them a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Polat expects that the game will help children find sitting through their full 20 minute sessions much more enjoyable than his original version, making the treatment easier to administer both at home and at school. Details relating to the presentation and content of the game are still being considered.
“My approach is to identify a video game that is suitable and will be interesting enough for kids that can be implemented in my treatment,” said Polat to Game Forward. “I guess that the ideal way will be to interleave the game with the treatment so that the kids will have incentive to comply with the treatment. (…) I still haven't identified the ideal game; thus, don’t know how the final outcome will look.”
An independent review of his concept was recently published in Vision Research and determined that 20 hours of this computer treatment was as effective as about 500 hours of eye patch wear. The treatment was notably endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.