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Doctors turn to Tetris to treat lazy eye

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have turned to video games, specifically Tetris, to help treat amblyopia, the eye disorder more commonly known as lazy eye. According to a report from The Canadian Press, researchers have found a four-fold improvement in vision using Tetris when compared to traditional methods of treatment.

Patients undergoing the treatment wore a set of head-mounted goggles that displays a special version of Tetris. Players are required to use both eyes to line up blocks, with falling pieces visible to one eye and pieces already placed on the bottom of the screen visible to the other eye.

"The game itself is sort of incidental in a way," said Dr. Robert Hess, principal investigator of the study. "It just provides us with a platform to administer this training that we need to do in a way that's enjoyable. The game itself is not so important as the principle behind how we manipulate the game to do some good."

The study exploring a treatment alternative to wearing eye patches — covering the dominant eye to strengthen the weaker eye — was published in the scientific journal Current Biology. Adult patients in the study played Tetris an hour a day for about six weeks, according to the report.

The procedure is being tested with children at the Retina Foundation in Dallas, Texas, part of a worldwide clinical trial that will compare the technique against patching methods.

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