Monday, September 28, 2015  12:00 – 12:45 pm, in 489 Minor Hall

Graduate Student Seminar

Action Video Games as a Treatment of Amblyopia in Children

A Pilot Study of a novel, child-friendly action game

presented by

Christina Gambacorta, PhD Candidate (Dennis Levi’s Lab)


Amblyopia, a neural limitation of sight, is routinely treated by patching the dominant eye during early childhood. This treatment is slow, requiring about 120 hours per line of acuity improvement, and compliance can be an issue. Recent studies have shown that playing action video games can lead to improved visual and stereo acuity in adults with amblyopia; however, due to their violent nature, these games are not suitable for children. Here, we tested the feasibility of a dichoptic, child-friendly video game developed using the Unreal Development Kit, specifically designed to provide the therapeutic benefits of action games to children. Twenty-two children, aged 7-18 years old, played the game for 10 or 20 hours over the course of several weeks. Half of the children played the game with a patch over the dominant eye, while the other half played on a dichoptic display, where perceived luminance was balanced between the two eyes. Visual and stereo acuity were assessed before and after training. Children in the dichoptic group improved, on average, by 1.5 lines on a visual acuity chart, while those that played with a patch did not improve. Stereoacuity gains in the dichoptic group were twice that of the patched group (mean improvement 74” vs 45”). We conclude that our dichoptic, child-friendly version of an action game shows promise in improving vision in children with amblyopia. As many children in this age group already play video games, this new therapy, yielding improved vision much faster than patching, could also lead to greater compliance, and therefore larger improvements in visual function over existing treatment options.

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