The classic video game Tetris may help treat adults with amblyopia, also known as lazy eye-a new study published in the journal Current Biology reveals.
Amblyopia develops during childhood when nerves connecting one of the eyes to the brain do not mature correctly, causing incorrect or blurry images to be transmitted to the brain. This causes the inflicted individual to favor one eye and can also cause issues with depth perception.
People with amblyopia may be seen using one of their eyes more than the other and is a condition that occurs in two to three out of every 100 children, according to the National Institutes of Health.
For the new study, researchers analyzed data based on 18 adults with amblyopia. Nine of the subjects were instructed to play the classic puzzle game while wearing split-vision goggles that were designed so the individual could see the falling blocks with one eye and the blocks laying on the bottom of the screen with the other. The other half of the study participants were outfitted with goggles that blocked out one eye, similar to the effect of wearing an eye patch.
Both of the groups were instructed to play Tetris for one hour each day for two weeks.
And researchers reported that the group wearing split-vision goggles displayed significantly more vision improvement compared to the other group who had one eye blocked.
"When we get two eyes working together, we find the vision improves," said Dr. Robert Hess, the study's author and director of research in the department of ophthalmology at McGill University in Montreal.
"It's much better than patching, much more enjoyable, it's faster and it seems to work better."
Prescription lenses, prisms and eye patches are treatment paths used to treat lazy eye, according to the American Optometric Association. The condition will not go away on its own, but vision therapy---a process that involves training the eyes to work together---may stop lazy eye from returning.
But Hess believes, based on the study's findings, that treating one eye instead of both may actually cause more harm.
"We have started to think about the condition in a completely different way," Hess said in an interview with Globe and Mail.
"The reason why the eye isn't working is not because it is lazy, it is because it is actively stopped from working by the signals from the sighted eye in the brain."
Hess added that other video games, aside from Tetris, may be able to offer the same effect.