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Lazy Eyes Cured with 3D Games

A Canadian-led study has found that playing video games with both eyes can dramatically improve vision in adults with lazy eye — a condition thought to be all but untreatable in adults.

Lazy eye, known to doctors as amblyopia, is a problem in which a person sees better in one eye than the other and the brain effectively turns off the weaker eye. It affects up to three per cent of the population. People with lazy eye can't see stereoscopic 3D scenes and can't judge distances as effectively as people with normal vision because those tasks require the use of both eyes at the same time.

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Forcing Both Eyes to Work

The new treatment involves setting up the video game of Tetris so it can only be played effectively using both eyes. The game involves rotating puzzle pieces as they fall so that they interlock with other puzzle pieces sitting at the bottom of the screen. The researchers split the image between the eyepieces of a pair of head-mounted video goggles so that one eye could only see the falling pieces and the other eye could only see the pieces sitting at the bottom of the screen.

They also adjusted the contrast in each eye so that at first, there was very little contrast in the image seen by the stronger eye. 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, the researchers reported in a paper published this week in the journal Current Biology.

Quick Results

"It's relatively quick, surprisingly quick," said Robert Hess, director of the opthalmalogy research department at McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. "More importantly, in a majority of cases, they get back their stereoscopic or their 3D vision."


The full scientific paper "Dichoptic training enables the adult amblyopic brain to learn" is available at Current Biology for 31.5 Canadian dollars.

Read the full announcement here in  CBC.