Can a New Computer Game Improve the Sight of Visually Impaired Children?

A revolutionary new computer game being developed by an British team of neuroscientists and game designers could improve the sight of visually impaired children.

Academics from the University of Lincoln, UK, are working with WESC, one of the UK’s most respected specialist schools for visually impaired children, to create and evaluate a new ‘visual search rehabilitation game’.

Currently there are around 25,000 children in Britain (about two children per 1,000) with a visual impairment of such severity they require specialist education support. There are a myriad of causes of blindness in children, but cerebral visual impairment (damage to areas of the brain associated with vision, rather than damage to the eye itself) is one of the most the most common.

Researchers from Lincoln’s School of Psychology and School of Computer Science will work with staff and children from WESC – the specialist centre for visual impairment. The school and college, based in Exeter, have been providing education and care for young people with visual impairment since 1838 and is a designated High Performing Specialist School.

Jointly funded by a grant worth around £130,000 ($194,102.35 USD) for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) the two groups will apply the very latest research in visual neuroscience to the rehabilitation of childhood cerebral visual impairment and special education.

There is existing research that shows that visual search training can lead to significant recovery of sight following damage to visual centers of the brain in adults. The issue has been that the existing training programs are just too boring to use with children.

The new game, designed specifically for children, will be a fun computer based tool which will benefit children with visual field loss – holes in their vision due to damage to the brain’s visual pathways.

The game will use the same principles derived from the existing programs in use with adults suffering from visual field loss.  The basic premise is that patients have to search for hard-to-find objects on a computer screen (a ‘visual search’ task), but the game will be modified to make the task more stimulating and fun for children and structured to maximize the efficiency of learning.

It is expected the new game will be suitable for rehabilitation of adults who have suffered sight loss due to stroke.

Read more: https://www.healthcanal.com/eyes-vision/37990-computer-game-could-improve-sight-of-visually-impaired-children.html

Tetris – A Cure for Lazy Eye Disorder?

Researchers use the popular puzzle video game Tetris  to treat adult amblyopia or lazy-eye.

By distributing information between the two eyes equally, the video game trains the eyes to work together, which is the opposite of previous treatments for the disorder (e.g. patching).

This study provides direct evidence that forcing both eyes to cooperate, increases the level of plasticity in the brain and allows the amblyopic brain to relearn. The research is published in the prestigious journal Current Biology.

Amblyopia or lazy-eye is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, affecting up to 3 out of every 100 children. Caused by poor processing in the brain, the weaker eye is suppressed by the stronger eye. Previously treatments for the disorder have focused largely on covering the stronger eye in order to force the weaker eye to work harder, proved only partially successful in children and have been ineffective in adults.

For adults a study was created that set up conditions that would enable the two eyes to cooperate for the first time in a given task.

The adult human brain has a significant degree of plasticity which provides the basis for treating a range of conditions where vision has been lost as a result of a disrupted period of early visual development in childhood.  Researchers examined the potential of treating amblyopic adults using the video game Tetris, which involves connecting different shaped blocks as they fall to the ground.

By using head-mounted video goggles the game was displayed dichoptically, where one eye was allowed to see only the falling objects, and the other eye was allowed to see only the ground plane, resulting in the eyes being forced to work together.

The study used 18 adults with amblyopia. Nine participants played the game monocularly with the weaker eye, while the stronger eye was patched; the other nine played the same game dichoptically, where each eye was allowed to view a separate part of the game. After two weeks, the group playing the dichoptic game showed a dramatic improvement in the vision of the weaker eye as well as in 3-D depth perception.   When the monocular patching group, who had showed only a moderate improvement, was switched to the new dichoptic training, the vision of this group also improved dramatically.

The suitability of this treatment in children will be assessed later this year in a clinical trial across North America.

Learn more about this study and read the original article: https://www.healthcanal.com/eyes-vision/37920-lazy-eye-disorder-a-promising-therapeutic-approach.html