Video games may be fun, but do you think playing too much is bad for you? Well, think again. A new study says that playing video games can actually improve your vision.
Researchers at the University of Rochester found that high action games can increase a person’s real-world vision. They discovered that gamers who constantly play action games actually improved their ability to perceive changes in shades of gray by 58 percent.
“Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery-somehow changing the optics of the eye,” says Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “But we’ve found that action video games train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after game play stopped.”
Bavelier has done previous studies on action games and has found that it increases visual attention. Contrast sensitivity is the limiting factor in how well a person can see. She says that action games could be a useful method for eye-correction techniques.
To prove their findings, Bavelier and her colleagues tested the contrast sensitivity of 22 students and then divided them into two groups. One group played the games “Unreal Tournament 2004” and “Call of Duty 2.” The second group played “The Sims 2”, which is not a high action game. Both groups played 50 hours of their games over nine weeks. At the end of the nine weeks, the groups playing the action games showed a 43% improvement in their ability to distinguish between close shades of gray, while the Sims players showed no improvement at all.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that contrast sensitivity can be improved by simple training,” says Bavelier. “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.”
Bavelier says that time spent in front of a screen playing video games may not be harmful at all to vision. She is now taking her findings and meeting with other researchers in order to find treatments for amblyopia, which is a problem caused by poor transmission of the visual image to the brain.
Now when your spouse, mother, girlfriend or boyfriend nags at you to stop playing video games and start spending time with them, you can tell them that you are actually doing something healthy for yourself. Whether or not they believe you is a different story.