Time Spent Playing Video Games Positively Correlated with Surgical Skills
I’ll never forget the moment when my friend’s father stated he bought a Wii because he had read some studies about how playing games improved hand-eye coordination related to surgery as he waggled a controller at the television screen. While not all Wii-actions might assist in laparoscopic surgery, a recent study by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMBG) demonstrated playing video games was positively correlated with the ability to perform minimally-invasive surgery techniques.
The researchers had a very simple question to answer: Who would perform better at robotic surgical training simulations — high school/college students or resident physicians? So they held a little competition.
Resident physicians were pitted against these young students to see who would perform better in over 20 different skill parameters and 32 teaching steps on the robotic surgery simulator. The simulator is said to have resembled a videogame, containing a controller operated by two hands, a screen displaying information, and a simulation acting out in real-time. The results?
Out of the 29 people in the study, the 9 tenth graders the study performed the best, followed by the 9 college students and (not) surprisingly, the 11 UTMB residents came in last. The mean age of each group was 16, 21 and 31 respectively. This of course is a testament to spatial-reasoning skills developed by the younger students who have played video games 2 – 4 hours per day on average. When these same students were challenged to perform surgical techniques without the simulation game, the physicians completely outscored their ability to perform the complex techniques.
Its obvious to say that simply playing videogames will not grant anybody the ability to perform surgery without years of intensive training and study. However, the key thing to take away from this is that the mere playing of these games (and in this case 2 – 4 hours per day) produced spatial-reasoning skills in young children that rivaled, if not exceeded, that of resident physicians who perform minimally invasive surgery.
Research on videogames’ effect on spatial reasoning and motor skills to have been around nearly as long as videogames have existed, including this one study that dates back to 1983. What’s fascinating is that this older study found no such correlation between videogames and motor skills, yet the study just discussed, another similar study, and many more in recent years have all found some positive correlation between videogame playing and spatial reasoning/motor skills, especially in the medical field.
This discrepancy is easily explained through the evolving nature of videogames themselves; a game in 1983 could be as simple as Pong and modern games like Starcraft can have players performing as many as 300 actions in a single minute.
Games are so engaging to the current breed of Gen-Y kids, that they have the potential to turn kids into dexterous and skilled “microathletes” who can perform tasks never even considered possible by the generations that have come before it and it really simply is all because some games are just that fun.
Just don’t let your kids perform surgery on the family dog with a Wiimote.
Here’s a video from the research group talking more about the study: