04 April 2012
Calum, Dr Anita Simmers and Pamela Knox
Glasgow Caledonian University eye specialists have used gaming technology to develop an innovative new treatment for one of the most common causes of visual impairment amongst children.
Amblyopia – more commonly known as lazy eye – affects three to four out of every 100 people in the general population. Currently, the most frequent treatment involves asking children to wear a patch over the good eye to encourage use of the lazy one.
However, this treatment can take months for any improvements to be shown and has associated problems with children being stigmatised, and not complying with the treatment.
With the new treatment, children wear ‘gaming goggles’ and play a ‘tetris-style’ video game for an hour a day over a period of a week to ten days. Tests have shown an almost immediate improvement, with parents of the children who took part reporting improvements in their offspring’s reading and school work.
Dr Anita Simmers, alongside postgraduate researcher and optometrist Pamela Knox, began piloting the project in 2010. Dr Simmers has received research funding of over £300,000 from the Scottish Scientist Office and leading eye research charity Fight for Sight.
Dr Simmer’s latest set of findings - An Exploratory Study: Prolonged Periods of Binocular Stimulation Can Provide an Effective Treatment for Childhood Amblyopia - were published in leading journal ‘Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science’ in February. The team are currently looking to attract new funding to proceed with the next stage of their investigations.
Dr Simmers said: “It was previously thought vision was hard-wired but research has shown we can fine tune and improve functions that were once thought to be lost. Our results suggest that this might provide a supplement to current therapy or possibly an alternative in those whose treatment has failed.”
“The results are very promising but no two cases of Amblyopia are ever the same. To fully demonstrate the potential of this technique for the clinical treatment of amblyopia, large scale, randomised clinical trials are needed to fully explore the validity of this approach.”