If the ever-increasing strength of my reading glasses is any indication, all this daily staring at a computer screen is taking an exacting toll on my eyes. However, help may be on the way in the form of Halo 2, if a new study from the University of Rochester is to be believed.
The research showed that people who played action video games for a few hours a day over the course of a month improved their vision by about 20 percent. That would pretty much put me back where I was before I ditched the newspaper world to become a new-media hound.
"Action video gameplay changes the way our brains process visual information," said Daphne Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the university. "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.
After some intense shoot 'em up action, the improvement was seen both in the part of the visual field where video game players typically play, and in the part of the 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 research, which was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, will appear next week in the journal Psychological Science. In the meantime, I'm off to learn Unreal Tournament.