Like most teenage boys, I spent plenty of time in front of the TV playing video games as a child. My parents would complain to me that staring at the screen for such lengthy periods of time would only be detrimental to my health; however, I could not believe how wrong they actually were. Over the years, violent video games have been criticized for their negative effects on young children, who tend to become more violent as a result.
In a recent study conducted by Daphne Maurer, from McMaster University in Canada, it was proven that playing certain video games could actually lead to improved vision. The study required six patients, who had lifelong cataract disorders, to play the “first-person shooter” video game “Medal of Honor” for exactly 40 hours over a one-month period. The “Medal of Honor” video game, like many other games available today, requires an enormous amount of concentration by the player due to the distractions taking place during gameplay. As part of the experiment, the patients were advised to play the game 5 times a day for a maximum of two hours a day.
The results from the study showed that the patients’ vision did in fact improve. The patients were now able to see direction of motion more easily, as well as smaller details and things in lower contrast. Maurer stated that about two-thirds of the things that were measured “improved simply from playing an action video game.”
The findings of the experiment were further investigated, such as how these changes in vision are even possible. They discovered that what could be occurring is that the video games could be altering the balance of excitation and inhibition neurons in the visual cortex. The games could actually lead to the rewiring of the brain, resulting in the formation of new connections. They may be revealing connections that have always were always there, but they were never quite powerful enough to be expressed.
This study did make me wonder if only “first-person shooter” video games enhance vision or if other video games are just as effective. It’s quite possible that the increase in adrenaline is what leads to the alteration of the brain’s state; therefore, many different types of video games can have the same impact. It would be interesting to see an experiment in which all kinds of video games were used to measure the change in an individual’s vision.