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New App Can Literally Improve Your Eyesight

author

Stephen Luntz

Freelance Writer

clockFeb 20 2014, 04:01 UTC
331 New App Can Literally Improve Your Eyesight
Laitr Keiows
The capacity of the brain to rewire itself has given hope to stroke victims and people who have survived injuries, but now is being turned to something with even more widespread appeal – helping baseball players hit the ball more often.
 
Ultimeyes is an app whose makers claim 30 minutes use a day will train the brain to pick up images at distance with less blurring. While its existence might have been a disaster for the impressionist art movement, its promise is tantalizing for sports players who need to sight a fast moving ball as early and accurately as possible. 
 
The visual cortex of the brain turns signals from the eyes to fuzzy patterns. UltimEyes presents us with these patterns directly in the hope the brain will learn to process them more efficiently. Users have to identify faint and fuzzy patterns, which get fainter and fuzzier the better the user gets.
 
The makers describe it as operating as a game to “heighten levels of engagement and the provide positive reinforcement required to drive progress.” Cues, distractions and task length are adapted to match an individual player's progress.
 
While this might all sound like a new marketing angle for just another video game, peer reviewed research backs Ultimeyes up. Current Biology reports that when members of the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team used the test their performance on standard eye-charts improved, and so did their batting. Inventor Associate Professor Aaron Seitz of the UCR Department of Psychology claims the training accounted for an extra 4-5 wins in the first season. However, the fact that allocation to the test group wasn't random and that team members who were not included in the study had no placebo may have exaggerated the gap between the players who participated and those that did not.
 
On Reddit, Seitz said, 
 
If focus is not ideal, there is a stigmatism, a scotoma, etc, then the brain can learn to do the best with what it is given but the problem with the input will remain. This said, it is important to realize that there are two general causes of poor vision, those related to ocular impairments for which improvement of the eye-function is required, and brain-based impairments for which brain training can help. Typically we suffer from a mixture of these and thus brain training can give some advantage even without ocular improvement and vise-versa. 
 
The app is being tested on people with low-vision, but results are yet to be confirmed. “Research is slow when months of training is required,” said Seitz.
 
The study reported remarkable results for some players. Average distance at which players could see clearly improved by 31% and seven members of the team achieved 20/7.5 vision – equivalent to seeing a chart 20 feet away as clearly as someone with normal vision could see at 7.5 feet – despite starting from roughly normal.
 
Confirmation of such potential might help explain the puzzle as to why Indigenous Australians have better eyesight than other racial groups, even when refractive errors are controlled for and lends credibility to stories of freakish eyesight, such as the capacity of some individuals to find stars several magnitudes below normal vision or see land from 30 miles out to sea.
 

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