Game On

How our eyes are the key to understanding the brain and body

Dr. Khizer Khaderi  has developed a new way to measure the eye-brian-body connection using video games.

If you sit down with Khizer Khaderi, MD, MPH, to talk about his work at Stanford University connecting vision and performance, there’s a good chance that by the end of the conversation, he’ll be drawing diagrams that crisscross the page or that fill up a whiteboard. 

Once you know how many hats Khaderi wears, the crisscrossing diagrams make sense. Khaderi, clinical associate professor at the Byers Eye Institute, is also the founder and director of the Stanford Human Perception Laboratory (HPL) and the Stanford Vision Performance Center (VPC). In addition, he’s a faculty member at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI and the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance (HPA). 

He’s helped create a web of technology, partnerships, virtual platforms, and most recently, a physical clinic that all converge at the same idea: the eyes can help us unlock our peak performance with healthcare and technology that is human-centered, democratized, and proactive. As a bonus, it can also be fun. 

“The VPC offers a new, holistic approach to vision care that clinicians, researchers, and Stanford University School of Medicine staff have spent years developing and bringing to life,” Khaderi said. 

The inaugural VPC clinic, which saw its first patient at the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation in 2023, will focus on Stanford athletes, including those who have suffered concussions or other injuries that may affect the eyes or vision. 

Future phases of the initiative will open the VPC clinic’s technology and innovative practices to the broader public and focus on helping people reach their highest possible level of performance in whatever they do, whether in professional sports or leading a Fortune 500 company, Khaderi says.

“Imagine if you went to the hospital, and they didn’t say ‘What seems to be bothering you today?’ but ‘What’s keeping you from performing at your best?’” he said. 

Doctors at the VPC will measure not only patients’ eyesight but also visual perception, reflexes, fatigue, and other indicators of health and performance. Patients will perform a series of simple tasks and get targeted medical testing so they can leave with a “prescription” to optimize and enhance their personal performance. 

“Dr. Khaderi’s passion for the Vision Performance Center can’t be overstated,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, Blumenkranz Smead professor and chair of ophthalmology. “That energy has helped push this vision forward for years as faculty, administrators and staff members took up the effort and lent their expertise to create something truly unique.” 

Anyone can get a vision performance index (VPI) score by playing one of two retro, Space Invaders-esque computer games on the Vision Performance Center website at The games take only minutes to play. 


High score

Prescriptions at the VPC won’t likely be found at a pharmacy, but instead include things like a special pair of glasses to strengthen some aspect of one’s vision or tailored exercises to help the mind, body, and eyes adapt more efficiently to the fast-changing technological world. 

For instance, a patient may play a Space Invaders-esque game on the computer, designed through advanced algorithms to measure complex elements of visual, cognitive and motor function and generate an individualized Vision Performance Index, or VPI. 

The VPI yields a numerical representation of the patient’s field of view, how quickly they can detect their target on the screen, accuracy, whether they can track multiple objects at once, and their endurance. 

VPI technology can be used in very simple tasks, like telling an office worker when their eyes are fatigued. But the VPI can also make more complex, multi-part assessments, like measuring how well a person perceives an action or object in their field of view, and then how quickly they decide what to do with that information before they act. 

Most remarkably, the technology can easily and inexpensively be integrated into almost any computerized screen. Eventually, Khaderi says, the VPI score could become a measure the average person uses consistently, the way one might track their heart rate with a smartwatch. 

The International Olympic Committee’s recent Consensus Paper on Sports-related Ophthalmology Issues in Elite Sports named VPI as a tool that is “practical and necessary” to monitor vision performance. 

“The VPI dimensions allow esports athletes, coaches, and trainers to identify strengths and weaknesses, monitor the therapeutic effects of interventions to improve performance, and personalize training programs to game/role-specific skill sets,” the paper reads.

After playing the short video game, players get a simplified score that reveals how well they are performing. The score is calculated using advanced algorithms to measure complex parts of visual function. 


Vision and aging

The VPC and the VPI technology is tapping into an enormous and fast-growing demand for science and research that will not just help people live longer, but enjoy more healthy years of life. The longevity industry is relatively new, but attracted more than $40 billion in investment globally in 2021, according to the economic and policy think-tank the Milken Institute. Bank of America estimates that could jump to more than $600 billion by 2025. 

But the technology’s application goes beyond monitoring and improving everyday performance. It could detect potential markers of cognitive decline, as with Parkinson’s disease or dementia. It could also spot signs of neurodivergence, like autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), helping people seek treatment and other accommodations earlier. 

All those features have people listening. Khaderi has spent the past year in talks drumming up potential partnerships with some of the largest tech and gaming companies globally. 

“We wanted to translate the idea behind wearables to the eye, brain, and body connection, while making our technology highly accessible,” Khaderi said. “Not everyone can afford wearables, but screen time is soaring, and we can leverage that for peoples' benefit.”

Janice is a web and communications specialist for the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford.