Study: Video Games Teach Surgery Better than Med School


A new study from scientists from the University of Texas at Galveston have people asking themselves, “Who would I rather give a scalpel to: a teenage video gamer or a medical resident?” Nine times out of ten the answer is simple, but when it comes to virtual surgery, the gamers performed above the medically trained professionals.

Put under the test with virtual surgery tools, both the gaming (2+ hours a day) high school sophomores and the college students out-performed the UT-Galveston medical residents, though only slightly so.

The study used a machine that replicated surgeries–suture this, pass off that needle, etc. It then measured the users’ competency based on how well they did the tasks, including the tension they put on their instruments and their overall hand-eye coordination. The high school students did best, followed by the college group, followed by the UTMB residents.

For something to compare the results to, researchers also had the groups perform simulations without the gaming-type robotic aid used in the first test–an experiment that tested a different set of cognitive traits. The young gamers got trounced by the residents in that field.

While current medical residents (likely born between 1984 and 1989) did not grow up in an era of more realistic gaming, nor was it part of their training, the effect that super-prevalent gaming will have medical procedures is fascinating to consider. Well-developed technologies incorporated into the surgery room could lead to more accurate laparoscopic procedures, and medical schools may soon encourage intensive video game experience before becoming surgeons.


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