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Shoot 'em ups 'can treat cataracts'

Wednesday February 22nd 2012

The advent of so-called 'shoot 'em up' computer action has been linked to an assortment of problems in modern society.

But a new study has found that playing violent 'shooter' video games can actually improve the sight of adults afflicted by cataracts since birth.

Canadian researchers discovered that the games appear to "rewire" parts of the brain's visual cortex and can repair damaged neurons.

The team, led by psychologist Dr Daphne Maurer from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, announced its findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The discovery came after an experiment involving six adults aged 19 to 31 who were born with congenital cataracts, which cloud the eyes. Even after corrective eye surgery, children can end up with permanently poor sight because being deprived of visual stimulus early on has a long-term effect on the brain.

Some of these effects can be reversed by a short programme of video gaming, Dr Maurer told AAAS delegates in Vancouver. The expert said: "Those improvements tell us that the adult brain is still plastic enough to be trained to overcome sensory deficiencies."

Copyright Press Association 2012

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