Video Gamers Vs Medical Residents
November 19, 2012

Young Gamers Shed Light On Training Surgeons For Robotic Surgery

[ Watch the Video: UTMB's Dr. Kilic on the Robotic Simulator Training Study ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Do you spend at least two hours a day playing video games, much to the chagrin of your parents, friends, siblings, girlfriend, wife or kids? Just tell them you´re training for a promising future as an operating room surgeon.

Scientists from University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston matched high school and college gamers against their medical school residents and found that the gamers were more adept at using their facilities´ virtual surgery tools, according to a study presented at the recent American Gynecologic Laparoscopists´ 41st Annual Global Congress on Minimally Invasive Gynecology in Las Vegas.

“The inspiration for this study first developed when I saw my son, an avid video game player, take the reins of a robotic surgery simulator at a medical convention,” said Dr. Sami Kilic, lead author of the study and associate professor and director of minimally invasive gynecology at UTMB. “With no formal training, he was immediately at ease with the technology and the type of movements required to operate the robot.”

For the study, the researchers recruited high school students that averaged two hours of gaming per day and college students that averaged four hours per day. The participants were tested on over 20 different skill parameters and 32 different teaching steps on the robotic surgery simulator, which uses a three dimensional virtual display similar to something seen on modern video games.

On average, the nine high school students, who were tenth graders, participating in the study performed the best, followed by nine college students from Texas A&M University and finally the 11 UTMB residents.

The medical residents were able to perform a complex virtual surgery better than the high school students, offering UTMB´s representatives some substantive consolation.

Kilic interpreted the study´s findings as a sign that future generations of doctors will arrive at medical school with a proclivity for today´s emerging surgical techniques.

“Most physicians in practice today never learned robotic surgery in medical school,” said Kilic. “However, as we see students with enhanced visual-spatial experience and hand-eye coordination that are a result of the technologically savvy world they are immersed in, we should rethink how best to teach this generation.”

The results also suggested that two hours is the optimal time needed for medical residents to gain these skills, as the college students, who played four hours daily, did not perform better than their younger counterparts.

In a web video, Kilic said examining the social development of these regular gamers should also be investigated to see if playing two hours of video games a day is a net benefit for these potential surgeons. He added that research currently underway expands on this idea and he is working in collaboration with UTMB´s behavioral scientists to find out more.

This latest study gives some credence to those who say video games can be more beneficial than people realize. The 2005 book Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson posited that modern video games not only increase hand-eye coordination, they also encourage the exploration of a virtual world and learning how to bend, break, or obey the rules of that world.