Vision improved by brain-training app

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Vision improved by brain-training app

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Vision improved by brain-training app

Test in baseball players led to fewer strikeouts, more runs and more wins

CBC News, February 28, 2014

The program is a video game in which players are presented with targets in
the form of fuzzy, striped blobs that are speckled across the screen. The
player
clicks on each one, causing it to disappear in a cloud. (Courtesy Aaron
Seitz/University of California, Riverside)

A brain-training video game that improved the vision of college baseball
players by as much as two lines on an eye chart has been developed by U.S.
researchers.

“This is something which I think could help almost anybody,” said Aaron
Seitz, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Riverside, who the
led the
research.

Players on the university’s baseball team improved their visual acuity by 31
per cent after training with the app. And that translated into better
performance on
the baseball field, where better vision improves the odds of hitting a ball
travelling well over 100 km/h.

“What we found is they had fewer strikeouts, they were able to create more
runs,” Seitz told CBC’s Quirks & Quarks in an interview that airs Saturday.
Coming up: Aaron Seitz talks to Quirks & Quarks March 1 at noon on CBC
Radio One

The players had more runs than predicted even after taking into account the
natural improvement that would be expected over the course of the season.
Further calculations suggest the improved performance helped the team to win
four or five additional games.

Following 30 sessions of training with the app, players had better vision,
fewer strikeouts, more runs and more wins.

But Seitz thinks the app has even more potential to help people with eye
conditions such as lazy eye, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration.
There are 100 million people around the world who have such low vision that
glasses don’t help, he added.

“All that they have to gain is the brain training element.… For these
people, there’s just really big real-world benefits that could be achieved
if we’re able
to improve their vision.”

Seitz and his colleagues developed their training program by poring through
hundreds of studies, looking for different ways to enhance the brain’s
visual
learning.

“What I decided to do with this app is to take everything I know and try to
stick it together into a program that was designed to create the biggest
learning effect,” he said.

The program is a video game in which players are presented with targets in
the form of fuzzy, striped blobs that are speckled across the screen.

Seitz and his colleagues think the app has the potential to improve the
vision of almost anyone, including those with low vision. (Laszlo
Balogh/Reuters)

“You’re supposed to click on all these blobs. And then as you do this, they
become harder and harder to see,” Seitz said. The blobs become smaller and
dimmer, and objects similar to the targets will start appearing as
distractions.

“The program adapts to the limits of your vision.”

The baseball players in the study trained with the program for 25 minutes at
a time. Each of them did 30 sessions of training over two months.

At first, Seitz wasn’t sure it would be effective, as the players already
had better than 20/20 vision. But by the end of the training, their vision
was even
better, even in low light conditions.

“Some of the players after training were able to get down to 20/7.5,” Seitz
said. “What a normal person could read at 7½ feet, they could stand 20 feet
back
and read just fine.”

Following the training, the team’s year-over-year improvements were at least
three times greater than the rest of the league in batting average, slugging

percentage, on-base percentage, walks and strikeouts, the researchers
determined.

Seitz is now working with more baseball teams and women’s softball teams as
well as non-athletes to try to understand what is causing the vision
improvements.
They are also hoping to confirm the results by comparing a trained group
with a control group in a double-blind study — something they weren’t able
to do with
the baseball players.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/vision-improved-by-brain-training-app-1.2555500

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