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Short-term training may help improve vision

Created date

June 5th, 2015
eye chart
eye chart

Vision problems are common among older adults for several reasons, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. But some vision changes are not due to the eye structures themselves and may be related to changes in brain function. 

Visual changes can affect quality of life and daily functioning, especially when it interferes with reading, your sense of balance, or driving ability. Older adults are especially prone to having trouble processing low-contrast visual stimuli such as grainy or ill-defined images. 

New research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging shows that short-term targeted visual training may be able to significantly improve this type of vision in as little as one week. Two study sets—one a group of older adults and one of younger adults—participated in the training. The exercises involved looking at a striped image and deciding if it had moved clockwise or counterclockwise from its starting point. The scientists would modify the image based upon how well the participants performed, thus “training” their visual systems to detect finer detail.

Positive results

After one week, results showed that the older adults could perform as well as the younger adults on the task. Along with improving sensitivity to contrast, the training also improved the ability to see objects clearly at a close distance. 

Results suggest that the improvements were not due to structural changes in the eye but that this type of visual training may work to modify the age-related visual processing changes in the brain. The researchers hope that the study’s findings may lead to additional research on how visual training can improve one’s ability to perform real-world tasks.