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Surprising Science

Proof: Joystick Jocks Make Good (Robotic) Surgeons

Researchers used simulations to measure physicians against high school- and college-age gamers. In all tests involving robot assistance, the gamers’ skills were equal or better.

What’s the Latest Development?

The next time someone complains about the extra-close relationship you have with your XBox, show them this: A study done at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) shows that when it comes to performing robot-assisted surgery, knowing your way around video games is a good skill to have. The study involved pitting UTMB physicians against a group of high school and college students who spend at least two hours a day gaming. When measured on a range of skills using simulation tests, the students proved to be as good as or even better than the physicians. Without robots, the physicians handily beat the students.

What’s the Big Idea?

Lead author Sami Kilic was inspired to conduct this study after seeing his son operate a robotic surgery simulator at a convention. Because robotic surgery is relatively new, and most physicians haven’t been trained for it, “[w]e had to come up with an idea of how to train our trainers,” he said. “[A]s 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.”

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