How long does it take to train your brain to see things better? According to a new study published in Current Biology, you just need to play a little iPad game for twenty-five minutes a day, four days a week, for two months, and not only will your vision improve, it’ll improve enough to make a difference when you’re playing sports.
Basically, researchers wrote an iPad app that had players find visual patterns. The game increased difficulty by making said patterns dimmer and dimmer. According to Aaron Seitz, one of the co-authors, “The goal of the program is to train the brain to better respond to the inputs that it gets from the eye. As with most other aspects of our function, our potential is greater than our normative level of performance. When we go to the gym and exercise, we are able to increase our physical fitness; it’s the same thing with the brain. By exercising our mental processes we can promote our mental fitness.”
Granted, it doesn’t sound like a hellova lot of fun, but it worked. Of the nineteen players who participated, seven actually improved their vision to 20/7.5 acuity—keep in mind that 20/20 is considered normal. So how good is 20/7.5? Well, that kind of acuity will let you read text from three times the normal distance, and measuring that kid of vision requires that you stand forty feet back from the eye chart.
Incidentally, the study participants were all baseball players, and their stats improved over the course of the study and compared to last season. Researchers estimate that those batting gains may have given the team four or five extra wins this season.
Researchers are now working to adapt the program to work with people who have eye problems like cataracts. That said, keep an eye on the app store—the next game you download might do more than distract you on the subway.