Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Playing the Wii makes you a better surgeon

Becoming a skilled surgeon is no easy task, but new research suggests that surgeons may be able to have a little bit of fun while they train. In a paper published today in PLOS One, researchers show have shown that a training regimen including the Wii can improve surgical skills.

It's nothing new that video game skill is positively correlated to laparoscopic surgery skill. In previous studies, surgeons were surveyed about their video game habits. In 2010 there was a correlation study that showed that a person's ability to play the Wii could predict laparoscopic surgery efficiency. Even as early as 2007 there was a study that showed that the most skilled laparoscopic surgeons also scored well in a game of Marble Madness.

This current study put those correlations to the test, showing a quantifiable improvement to laparoscopic skills from a training regimen that includes playing the Nintendo Wii. The surgeons-in-training were divided into two groups, one of which was asked to play the Wii for 60 minutes every day. The other group was asked to avoid all video games. After the four week period the group with the Wii training schedule had improved their surgical skills much more than the group that didn't play video games.The study concludes with the following statement:
"It is hard to suggest that Academic Institutions adopt a videogame console as a  didactic tool for surgery in addition to traditional training and simulators. (...) The Nintendo Wii may be adopted in lower-budget Institutions or at home by younger surgeons to optimize their training on simulators before performing real procedures" 
An interesting conclusion: You won't see medical schools rushing out to get their hands on a Wii, but if you are a young surgeon it may be a cheap alternative to expensive laparoscopic trainers.

It seems like a bit of a flaw to me that the control group were not asked to perform some other, non-video game related training for an equivalent amount of time each day. The only mention of the control group is that they were asked not to play video games. It seems that this study really only says that doing tasks that require hand-eye coordination will improve hand-eye coordination; the Wii really has nothing to do with it at all (though when studies like this are done it does make for good publicity I suppose). An interesting future experiment may be to repeat these same conditions with a third group that is given an hour every day with a standard laparoscopic trainer or some other task that requires hand-eye coordination. How would this extra time on the trainer compare to training with the Wii?

On a related subject, if you'd like to know how the Wii remote works, I've written an article about that here. Domenico Giannotti, Gregorio Patrizi, Giorgio Di Rocco, Anna Rita Vestri, Camilla Proietti Semproni, Leslie Fiengo, Stefano Pontone, Giorgio Palazzini, & Adriano Redler (2013). Play to Become a Surgeon: Impact of Nintendo WII Training on Laparoscopic Skills PLOS One