If you spent many an hour in your youth sat in front of a monitor mashing buttons to your favourite video game then, like me, you were probably subject to anxious parents dragging you away in the name of good eyesight.

If that scenario rings a bell to you, then you may well be interested to hear that the latest development in helping children with lazy eye is none other than... good old fashioned Tetris.

Lazy Eyes (Amblyopia) – Facts and Fixes

To give it its real name, Amblyopia occurs through a lack of visual stimulation in one eye transmitting to the brain, which produces the blurry vision we know as lazy eye. The NHS estimate that it affects as much as five percent of the population and occurs in the earliest years of childhood.

As far as treatment is concerned, the child is generally given glasses and some encouragement to exercise the weak eye, before having an eye patch popped over their good eye to train the muscles in the other. Generally it’s a fairly effective treatment but, aside from the difficulties of forcing an eye patch on a small child, it tends to take many months before improvement can be seen (if you’ll pardon the pun).

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Where does Tetris fit in? (Another equally bad pun)

Developers at Glasgow University have quite rightly guessed that children would much rather don a pair of specially designed gaming glasses and pit themselves against a slightly modified game of Tetris.

When looking through the glasses, the modifications in question produce a significantly brighter screen on the side of the lazy eye as well as placing the falling blocks on one side of the screen and the wall of ‘already fallen’ blocks on the other. In its simplest terms, this exploits the engrossing nature of the game to force both eyes to work together to progress.

The Results

So far, the results are looking very promising. After as little as an hour’s gaming a day (which shouldn’t pose a child too much of a problem) improvements have been seen in one week.

Though the project was conceptualised in 2010, it is still in very early stages and its originators remind us that “no two cases of Amblyopia are ever the same”. To this end, we will hopefully see much broader scale testing in the near future, and you can’t help but wonder whether some day Crash Bandicoot will emerge as a cure for something or other.

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