Gone are the days when staring at the super bright images on an iPad was thought to be detrimental to the user’s eyesight, now that there is new research that actually supports improved vision. This was achieved with a two-month training programme developed by US scientists where the volunteers had to spend 25 minutes every day on an iPad. The volunteers of the study had to work out visual patterns that were designed to make the brain work harder than the eyes. This is a vast improvement on other similar programmes that make the eyes take all the strain. The results of the study published on Monday in Current Biology recorded an improvement in vision that was even greater than the normal 20/20 range and the volunteers were able to read a chart from as much as three times further away.
The volunteers for the study were 19 baseball players from the University of California, Riverside (UCR). They demonstrated an average 31 percent improvement in their eyesight, with several of them exceeding the normal vision measurement of 20/20. The direct benefit for the baseball players was a better ability to see the ball, improved peripheral vision, better vision in fading light and at night. Vision training is an important aspect of any sport and can make a crucial difference in the tally of wins and losses. Ongoing monitoring of the UCR volunteers showed that they were able to get more runs during a game than the other players. This could add up to an extra four wins during the game season.
The findings that support the notion that using an iPad can improve eyesight came as a result of a new app created by neuroscientist, Aaron Seitz and his team at the University of California, Riverside. Seitz tested the app called UltimEyes on the 19 volunteers for 30 sessions of 25 minutes each. One of the players managed an astounding superhuman reading of 20/7.5 vision which demonstrates an ability to see something at a distance of 20 feet that others would only see at a maximum distance of 7.5 feet from the object. Seitz said “We were using standard, on-the-wall eye charts. Normally, you stand 20 feet away, but our charts only measured down to 20/10 [vision]. So we moved some of these players 40 feet away from the eye chart and they were still reading the low lines. I was shocked.”
The area of the brain that controls eyesight, called the visual cortex breaks down incoming information into patterns called Gabor Stimuli. The science behind the new app is meant to directly confront the eyes with the Gabor Stimuli and use puzzles to exercise the visual cortex. This, according to the researchers, can train the brain to process the patterns with greater clarity and with continued use, creates clearer images at a greater distance. Seitz explained that over the last decade scientists have discovered that brain fitness is similar to physical fitness. If given sufficient exercise, all brain functions and abilities can be improved.
At this early stage it is still unclear why the improved vision is greater in some people, why the improvement is sometimes greater in one eye and not equal in both, nor how long the benefits of using this iPad app will last. These will be the subjects of continued interested and study. In the meanwhile, the iPad UltimEyes app can be downloaded free from the iTunes store but needs a purchased license code to make it work.
By Grace Stephen