March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Action video games aren't just child's play: A new study finds the pastime can help adults improve a part of eyesight called contrast sensitivity, one of the first parts of vision to be affected by aging.
Contrast sensitivity -- the ability to notice even minor changes in shades of grey against a uniform background -- is important in situations such as driving at night or in poor visibility, according to background information in the study. Contrast sensitivity can be improved through surgery, glasses or contact lenses.
But this study suggests video games may also improve contrast sensitivity. Daphne Bavelier and colleagues at the University of Rochester found that expert video game players who played action games had better contrast sensitivity than those who played non-action games.
To test whether this was simply because people with better contrast sensitivity were more likely to play action games, the researchers gave the non-action players intensive practice in action games. This led to improved contrast sensitivity.
The improvements lasted for months or even years. The findings suggest that time spent in front of a computer isn't necessarily harmful, as has been suggested, the researchers said.
The study was published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
SOURCE: Nature Research Journals, news release, March 29, 2009