I can see clearly now

April 20th, 2009 | Sources: BurrillReport, Nature


Playing fast action video games, including first-person shooter games can boost ones’ ability to perceive subtle differences in shades of gray.

Contrast sensitivity like this is the primary factor that determines how well a person can see.

EagleeyesDaphne Bavelier and colleagues at the University of Rochester and the Eye Institute at Tel Aviv University probably had no problem rounding up 22 young adult volunteers for her study of these matters.

After assessing the participants’ visual contrast sensitivity, the scientists randomized them into 2 groups and asked them to play assigned video games for 50 hours during a 9 week intervention.

The test group played 2 action video games, “Unreal Tournament 2004” and “Call of Duty 2.” Controls played “The Sims 2” which was visually complex, but had a slower pace and did not require precise, visually guided aiming activity.

After the volunteers had skipped the light fandango and turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor for 9 weeks, action game players were found to have improved by 43% their ability to discern between shades of pale. There was no change in the Sims group.

 “Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery—somehow changing the optics of the eye,” Bavelier told BurrillReport. “But we’ve found that action video games train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently.”

The improvements held true for 2 years after the “training” had ended. The write-up is in Nature Neuroscience.
The scientists’ findings extended Bavelier’s earlier research showing that action video games reduce visual crowding and increase visual attention.

They concluded that action video game training may complement standard eye-correction techniques by teaching the visual cortex to better use the information it receives.


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