Researchers at McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) have found that the popular puzzle game Tetris can be used to treat adult amblyopia, commonly known as "lazy eye." The method of treatment is drastically different because normally treatments involve patching one eye to make the uncovered eye work harder. Using Tetris, researchers found that both are used to work together to keep up with the fast-paced puzzle game.
"The key to improving vision for adults, who currently have no other treatment options, was to set up conditions that would enable the two eyes to cooperate for the first time in a given task," says Dr. Robert Hess, senior author of the paper and Director of Research Department of Ophthalmology at the RI-MUHC and at McGill University.
Dr. Hess and his colleagues note that the adult human brain has a significant degree of plasticity, which provides the basis for treating a range of conditions where vision has been lost as a result of a disrupted period of early visual development in childhood.
The research team led by Dr. Hess from McGill University and RI-MUHC tested a 18 patients. Of those, nine participants played the game "monocularly" with the weaker eye, while the stronger eye was patched; while the other nine played the same game "dichoptically," where each eye was allowed to view a separate part of the game. After two weeks, the group playing the dichoptic game showed a dramatic improvement in the vision of the weaker eye as well as in 3-D depth perception. When the monocular patching group (who had showed only a moderate improvement) was switched to the new dichoptic training, the vision of this group also improved dramatically.
"Using head-mounted video goggles we were able to display the game dichoptically, where one eye was allowed to see only the falling objects, and the other eye was allowed to see only the ground plane objects," explains Dr. Hess, who also serves as director of McGill Vision Research. "Forcing the eyes to work together, we believed, would improve vision in the lazy eye."
Researchers think the treatment is promising but are not ready to say whether it will produce similar results for children just yet. That facet of the research will be assessed later this year in a clinical trial across North America.