x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Focus on the phone

Doctors have come up with a cure for lazy eye that will please gamers.

By definition "medicine" isn't supposed to be fun, but sometimes medical breakthroughs offer treatment that even the most doctor-phobic might rush to try.

Researchers in Canada appear to have found a creative way to treat lazy eye: by gluing patients to the popular puzzle-matching game Tetris on their mobile phones.

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is an eye disorder in which the eyes are not coordinated with each other. Patients often have to squint to see, especially if they did not have enough sleep or are fatigued. If the disorder is not treated, it can worsen and lead to more serious vision problems. As many as 5 per cent of the world's population suffers from it.

But how many more people have played Tetris? Released in 1984 by a Soviet programmer, it has since been dubbed one of the 100 best video games ever, and been downloaded to over 100 million mobile devices.

With such popularity, the researchers at McGill University are certainly on to something. Traditionally, doctors treating lazy eye would place a patch on the healthy eye for hours or months. Playing a video game, as they report in Current Biology, would be far more convenient, and fun.

Of course, there is a likely downside: how do you treat sore thumb?