From parents to psychologists, the benefit of playing video games continues to be a hot and often contested topic. But from the pro camp, new research published in Ophthalmology suggests playing immersive video games in a three-dimensional (3D) stereoscopic environment containing disparities larger than generally encountered in natural scenes may provide therapeutic benefits in the recovery of reduced stereopsis in amblyopia.1

Researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry first evaluated whether a binocular approach, in combination with the 3D video game play, improved VA in the amblyopic eye. Twenty-one adults with amblyopia played an off-the-shelf, 3D first-person shooter video game while wearing a Bangerter filter over the dominant eye and prism correction, if required, for 40 hours over four-to-six weeks (for two hours each session, five-to-seven sessions per week).

Over the course of video game play, participants showed a rapid improvement in VA of the amblyopic eye. Researchers reported no significant difference in percentage improvement between nonstrabismic and strabismic participants.

To examine how 3D video game experience influenced depth perception, researchers also measured stereoacuity using a new test they developed on the basis of Gabor features. They found gaming resulted in recovery of stereo vision in both anisometropic and strabismic amblyopes.1

“Our present findings contribute to establishing a new binocular protocol for treatment of amblyopia. Unlike monocular and dichoptic video games, stereoscopic three-D video games might have a benefit for the recovery of stereo vision in both strabismic and anisometropic amblyopia,” the researchers said. 

One limitation of this study, researchers noted, is the absence of a large placebo group for comparison. “We are currently expanding ongoing control experiments to address this important issue and also characterizing the dose-response relationship of this new binocular approach. Randomized placebo-controlled studies, with a larger sample size, are needed before applying this new binocular technique in clinical situations.”

“Stereo vision is often severely impaired in the amblyopic brain. These types of stereoscopic 3D video games can directly stimulate the recovery of stereo vision in patients with amblyopia,” says lead study author Roger Li, BScOptom, PhD. “Here we established a binocular protocol for treatment of amblyopia. Patients who undertake such binocular treatments should be closely monitored. More research is needed before applying this technique in clinical situations. Our work potentially opens the door to new binocular treatments for amblyopia.”

Li RW, Tran KD, Bui JK, et al. Improving adult amblyopic vision with stereoscopic three-dimensional video games. Ophthalmology. May 18, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].