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3/28/2006
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Special Video Games May Help 'Lazy Eye'

But the therapy works only with specially designed video games and videos, not off-the-shelf wares, and more research is needed, experts say.

Video games may have a new and unexpected use -- correcting lazy eye.

Recently published findings in Eye Journal suggest that 3D video games may actually work faster than traditional therapy for amblyopia. The Virtual Reality Applications Research Team from the University at Nottingham in the United Kingdom recently finished trials on patients using virtual reality games to exercise and strengthen weak eyes.

The experimental treatment appears to work in just one to three hours, while patients using eye patches usually do not experience results until they have worn the patches up to 400 hours -- usually over the course of several months.

The news is not likely to boost sales of video games among eye patients. According to Nottingham University Research Orthopist Paula Waddingham, the therapy only works with specially designed video games and videos. Gareth Griffiths, who left the University for New Zealand, designed unique virtual reality videos to present different images to the strong eye and the weak eye.

"You can't just buy them off the shelf," Waddingham said during a phone interview Tuesday.

Waddingham said the trials give hope for young patients who do not consistently wear patches and adults who develop problems in their strong eye or want to pursue careers with vision requirements.

Researchers plan more trials to determine whether their encouraging findings are valid and what mechanisms are at work during the healing process.

"It made us think things are happening in the brain that no one thought of before," Waddingham said. "It could be reactivating a pathway that's already there."

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