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Train your brain to improve your sight.

Would you like your sight to be better? Without glasses, lasers or cataract operations? Well, there may be a way - a surprising way. Brain exercises. And I, for one, am prepared to try.

I know only too well the effect of diminishing visual sharpness - stumbling over a step I didn't see, missing the edge of a stair, feeling a bit wobbly in a dimly lit passageway.

This is down to loss of "contrast sensitivity", our ability to distinguish gradations of light to dark.

You can So it becomes more difficult to discern where, for instance, a stair ends and the next one begins.

old grey new New research suggests that contrast sensitivity can be improved with brain-training exercises. In a study published last month in Psychological Science, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, and Brown University, US, showed after just five sessions of exercises, the vision teach of 16 people in their 60s and 70s vastly improved.

matter tricks After the training, the adults could make out edges far better. And when given a standard eye chart, they could correctly identify more letters.

"There's an idea out there that everything falls apart as we get older, but even older brains are growing new cells," said Allison Sekuler, a professor of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour at McMaster University in Ontario, US, who was not involved in the study. "You can teach an older brain new tricks."

During each session, subjects watched 750 striped images, which were shown rapidly on a computer screen with subtle changes in the visual "noise" surrounding them like snow on a TV set.

The viewer identified whether the rotating images were going clockwise or counterclockwise. Each correct answer created a beep. Sessions took an hour and a half and were difficult and taxing. But after five gos, the subjects had learned to concentrate on the images and to filter out the "snow".

The older adults performed as well as those 40 years younger and were also better able to make out letters on an eye chart at reading distance.

Dr Andersen, a researcher, said that as people age, cells in our brain's visual system fire randomly, creating a kind of internal noise.

The study's exercises were designed to train adults to filter out external visual noise, like squinting through raindrops on a window pane, to distinguish edges of contrast.

And at the same time, Dr Andersen said the brain might simultaneously have been trained to reduce its own internal noise.

Improving perceptual learning in older adults could be a boost in old age, not just seeing better, but hearing better and tasting better - giving flavour to life.

You can teach old grey matter new tricks

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 5, 2015
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