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There's a $95 app for that. This app presents gabor patches at different locations on the screen, and you have to respond when a gabor patch is presented at the target location. The app increases difficulty as you play by speeding up, changing orientation, and by presenting the gabor patches closer to the target. I can see how such an app could lead to faster processing/response times, but I don't see how it increases visual acuity. "After training, the volunteers were able to read more than two lines further down an optical chart held 40 centimetres from their eyes - corresponding to a reduction in "eye age" from 50.5 to 41.9 years". Can the brain really be trained to take a blurry image coming from the eyes and make it clear? Anyone familiar with this research?
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Acuity for recognizing letters isn't just a matter of optics. Particularly there is the effect of "crowding" where acuity for recognizing a letter that's adjacent to another letter is a lot worse than acuity for recognizing a letter by itself. Crowding has something or other to do with spatial attention and the description of this app really sounds like it's an exercise of spatial attention. So if the it's the spacing between letters that is interfering with recognition (letters further down the eye chart are more closely spaced in addition to being smaller), more practiced spatial attention might be able to get you further down the eye chart. And as it turns out, Dennis Levi who'se referenced in the article has done a lot of work on crowding.
 
Yes, Levi does good work. Still, evidence for this sort of transfer of training is remarkably scanty in general. I'd like to see some independent replication of the transfer effect to make sure that people weren't just more motivated to try harder on the acuity test (with a suitable placebo control condition).

It wasn't clear to me from the NS piece that Levi did the work on transfer to letters. That might have been the company and not him. From the story, it appears that Levi found improvement with similar Gabor patches. That makes sense -- training tends to improve performance with the task and stimuli used for training, but little else.

Seems like a lot of $$ to charge for a program like that. I'm generally wary of any claims for broad transfer from brain training programs. The claims are often based on sciencey marketing rather than science. If you're interested, you can see my (extensive) commentary on some misleading sciencey marketing by another brain training company, Posit Science: http://theinvisiblegorilla.com/blog/2010/09/28/science-or-sciencey-part1/
 
There are published results suggesting that this approach works, including this 2007 controlled study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2258094/

I wonder if playing modern video games can help your eyesight in a similar way, in particular FPS games with obscuring foliage, camo, motion blur and the like. :-p
 
+Brendan Walters -- From a quick glance at the link you posted, the control group in that study does not appear to be an adequate control for placebo. A strong causal claim that an intervention improved performance depends on an appropriate baseline that accounts for possible demand characteristics, motivation effects, and placebo effects. The control in this one involved no training at all. It was just a visual examination only. That's essentially a no-contact control, and it doesn't rule out motivational factors or other placebo-like problems. Video game training studies are actually better about including active control conditions, but they have problems too. This sort of demonstration that it's possible to show improvements is a great first step, but it's not adequate when making strong causal claims.
 
Your point is well taken that the control is pretty weak and a simple placebo effect could be at play. That said, it's hard to come up with a strong placebo test here (and the test method is relatively objective, although improved confidence could produce accuracy improvements for the final row where people are guessing a bit). Certainly you could build a placebo against the specific treatment used, but against the idea of perceptual training in general, it might take a few studies to come up with one that has no effect [of course, finding out what does and doesn't work would be valuable!].

They did mention the possibility of motivation effects, particularly when then noted that commercial reported results were slightly better (it's always hard to draw the line between some sort of bias there and honestly better outcomes due to the motivation paying for treatment produces).

While the study doesn't strongly support a claim for the specific method they were testing, I used it because it does at least offer reasonable support for the concept that (possibly a wide variety of) perceptual training can lead to improvement, even if that improvement is due primarily to some sort of placebo-like confidence boost.
 
A possible partial control might be a modified FPS where your close misses are recorded as hits and enemies are slow to fire and usually miss. Regarding Polat's work in the New Scientist article, the transfer seems plausible to me. If you are ever going to get transfer from a perceptual learning task to a clinical test of vision, transfer from contrast sensitivity training to letter recognition measures of visual acuity is a pretty good bet (and it has also been reported before.)
 
Ah, I was referring to the more minimalist Gabor patch training (for which the simple control might be flat highlight zones), but I like your idea for FPS testing. On the other hand, that might be a necessary part of the test anyway in order to get a representative population sample (non-gamers do not often adapt quickly to FPS mechanics); it would compensate more for control capabilities than perception, I'd think . . .
Yao Xin
 
cool~~~ I was in a vision lab and they trained amblyopic subjects to increase their acuity via gabor patch.
 
There's a great racket: pay us $95 and we'll let you participate in our perception experiment. Hello, NIH, welcome to obsolescence.
 
I am a vision scientist who studies crowding. You are right that reading speed is limited by crowding. But if your vision is bad, you will have other trouble as well, which is what this program is aimed at. Crowding and acuity are two different things. I am working on a method that reduces crowding and speeds up reading by 20%. So far, it's working on every subject and requires no training. You just read text, but we present the text in a special way.
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