GCU researchers tackle amblyopia with video games

05 September 2014

GCU researchers tackle amblyopia with video games

Visual acuity improvement reaches a plateau using eye patches

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers are developing an innovative way of using video games to improve the eyesight of children with amblyopia – more commonly known as lazy eye.

Amblyopia affects 2-5% of 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, GCU researchers believe there is huge potential for greater motivation and engagement through the use of video games, which will stimulate both eyes improving both visual acuity and stereo (3D) vision.

With research grant funding of over £220,000 from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO), GCU’s Professor Anita Simmers is launching an exploratory randomised control trial in the treatment of amblyopia using videogames called ‘Perceptual Learning in Enhanced Amblyopia Treatment’.

The grant will enable the development of a custom-made video game, in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, which will split the screen to encourage the use of both eyes.

Professor Simmers piloted this approach in a study with research funding from the Scottish Scientist Office and leading eye research charity Fight for Sight.

Children wore ‘gaming goggles’ to play a ‘Tetris-style’ video game for an hour a day over a period of a week to ten days.

The pilot study established for the first time the feasibility of a perceptual learning approach in childhood lazy eye with improvements in visual acuity and the establishment of 3D vision.

Amblyopia can occur when the brain "turns off" the visual processing of one eye to prevent double-vision, for example in strabismus (crossed eyes).

Participants to the new clinical trial will be recruited from the orthoptic clinic within Ophthalmology at Gartnaval General Hospital in Glasgow. Eligible children will be those where it has been determined that visual acuity improvement has reached a plateau using an eye patch.

Participants will be split into monocular (using the lazy eye), binocular (stimulating both eyes) and dichoptic (encouraging acuity and binocular vision) viewing groups.

Professor Simmer’s initial findings have been published in leading journals ‘Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science’ and ‘Vision Research’.

Professor Simmers said: “My belief is that, while an eye patch works up to a point, there can be further improvements to vision in children of an older age – say six or seven – through greater motivation and engagement with a video task. Encouraging the use of both eyes in a treatment is a fundamentally different approach.”

Professor Simmers is working with colleagues including Professor of Vision Science and Optometry Dennis Levi, from the University of California, Berkeley and the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at Glasgow University.

Share/Save/Bookmark

Latest from Twitter