The Impact of video games in training surgeons – J Rosser et al.

This paper looks at a pretty different aspect of research into games – the benefits of their use in surgery by enhancing fine motor skills.

Rosser, J., Lynch, P., Cuddihy, L., Gentile, D., Klonsky, J., Merrell, R., (2007) The Impact of video games on training surgeons in the 21st Century. The Archives of Surgery, 142. 181 – 186.

Central theme and scope:

This research examines the influence of playing video games – both immediately before a task as well as playing them regularly over longer periods of time prior to the task – in the development of a range of perceptual and motor skills useful in surgery.

It has a fairly narrow scope in comparison to a lot of the research into the impact of videogames on game players however this works to the researches advantage as it takes a highly focussed approach and makes excellent use of available medical technology used to assess performance and measure neurological activity.

Intended Audience:

This paper was published in the Archives of Surgery (Feb 2007), a respected medical journal published by the American Medical Association and aimed at surgeons and other medical professionals, including teachers of surgery.


The hypotheses being tested in this study were that “surgeons with past video game experience will peform better in a standardised laparoscopic skill and suturing program” and that “video games are correlated with better peformance in a standardised laparoscopic skill and suturing program”.

To test this, 33 surgeons participated in The Rosser “Top Gun” laparoscopic skills and suturing program. This measures their speed and accuracy in a simple surgical procedure, by making use of “an inanimate electronic proctor that controls for economy of movement errors in addition to time”.

The surgeons were all surveyed about their history of game playing, surgical experience and speciality. These factors as well as gender and hand dominance were all noted.

The surgeons then spent time playing games which emphasised non-dominant hand dexterity, two-handed choreography, targeting and 2-d depth perception skills. They then undertook practice drills which involved suturing and laparoscopic procedures.

The results of the study (after all factors were considered) showed that current video gamers scored 40% better in the Top Gun suturing course. Surgeons who have played video games in the past were 33% better at laparoscopic drills and suturing. Subjects who played video games for more than 3 hours per week had 37% few errors than those who had never played. If subjects played video games for more than 3 hours per week, they were 27% faster at laparoscopic drills and suturing tasks.

The researchers behind the study came to the conclusion that video game skill and past experience with video games are significant predictors of laparoscopic skills and suturing capability. They attributed this to several neurological processes that occur during game play. There are substantial increases in Dopamine release in the stratium and prefrontal cortex – areas associated with eye-hand coordination. Dopaminergic neurotransmission is also involved in learning, reinforcement of behaviour and attention.

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