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article imagePlaying video games helps the visually impaired

By Tim Sandle     Dec 13, 2016 in Technology
While many sociologists raise concerns about the excessive playing of video games, for the visually impaired the active engagement with video game may actually be a good thing, helping vision to improve.
Video games receive a mixed press and the same is true of the scientific community. Some researchers warn about the overuse of screens and video games, especially for the developing child or teen. There are also concerns about the degree of violence in many games and the effects on young people.
On the other hand, action video games can play a positive role with child development, especially the way that the brain processes images from video games and this helps to improve vision, especially with the visually impaired.
A new study from the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University demonstrates that children who have visual impairments showed measurable improvement in their peripheral vision. Such positive effects were noted after only eight hours of such “brain training.” This was using bespoke video games, designed for the purpose of aiding young, visually impaired people.
The study has been running for one year and the beneficial effects remain evident. According to the lead researcher, Professor Duje Tadin, who told Laboratory Roots: “children who have profound visual deficits often expend a disproportionate amount of effort trying to see straight ahead, and as a consequence they neglect their peripheral vision.” This weakness affects mobility.
To find ways to improve peripheral vision, the researcher suggests that action video games improve visual perception. For this Professor Tadin identified the components of video games that have the strongest effect on perception and used this to construct a game that encourages the player to focus their attention to the entire visual field (as opposed to just focusing on the visual impairment).
The video game devised was centered on various visual acuity tasks — and looks a little like Tetris. The game has been tested out on 24 young people who have a vision assessed as below the legal threshold for blindness. While the physical causes of the visual impairment cannot be corrected, the research showed how the brain can be trained to reallocate resources so that greater attention is paid when visualizing a scene or an object.
The game and its development are published in the journal Scientific Reports (see: “Perceptual training yields rapid improvements in visually impaired youth.”)
More about Video games, Play, Health, Games, Visually impaired
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