You’ll often hear a parent talk about the struggle to keep their child’s video game time at a minimum. While it is very true that too much time in front of a screen will contribute to issues like obesity and problems socializing with peers, video games may be helpful in the field of children’s eyecare.

Eye and Brain Response Time

When playing video games, your eyes must receive the image, convey it to your brain, then your brain must stimulate other parts of your body into action as appropriate. You have little time to react, and video game studies have shown that playing consistently improves the brain’s response time of interpreting a signal and prompting reaction. Tracking, or the way your eyes follow an object, was greatly improved resulting in an easier time with reading, sports, and many other normal aspects of a person’s routine.

Brain Function as Related to Vision

Studies of children and adults with cataracts playing First-Person Shooter games proved a few interesting things. The first fact was that the part of the brain responsible for interpreting visual signals could be strengthened so that weak visual signals could be perceived more easily. Secondly, video games have a very wide visual field, where many events are occurring simultaneously. The eyes and brain must work to react to each event, or face consequences (player dies and/or game ends). This helps widen the patient’s visual field not only with regard to gaming, but also in reality. Thirdly, in these studies it was observed that neurons were activated which may have previously been dormant or inattentive. Their awakening helped the brain react more effectively to the visual stimulus.

Contrast Detection

The many colors and shades used in today’s video games provide a very useful tool for children’s eyecare. Children born with cataracts, and even adults who had cataracts saw improvement in their detection of color differences. Being able to see those slight contrasts helped significantly, especially in low light environments when the effects of cataracts are most evident. This discovery was very significant as it indicated that recovery from this problem was possible, even for an incident or issue that occurred long ago.

Video games used responsibly can be an effective tool in children’s eyecare. Talk to your optometrist to find out if this technique can be helpful for your child, and for recommendations on how best to use video games.