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Gamers are good at virtual surgery

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This week, we argued that videogames should be taught in schools, because they make you better at shooting people’s faces off multitasking, thinking about abstract shapes and making rapid decisions. A new study suggests gaming might have a home in medical school too.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston pit resident medical students against video-game playing 10th graders in a battle to see who could perform virtual, robotic surgery simulation; doing things like suturing wounds. The results?

The gamers did just as well – and in some cases better – at the simulated surgery as the medical residents. Researchers suggest that could be because the unpredictability of gameplay in sports games and shooters is similar to surgery – and the quick-thinking that gaming fosters is a boon. And while it means all those hours on the PlayStation aren’t a waste of time, it doesn’t mean you should give up medical school to play games.

“I’m not encouraging [teenagers] to spend countless hours in front of the computer games,” says lead researcher Sam Kilic,"because our job is not to create the best surgeon ever or the best soldier ever … in this age group. They have to have the fundamental human being skills in their developing age.”

I already know that I’d be a great surgeon; I’ve poured countless hours in to the very realistic surgery simulator Trauma Centre on the Nintendo DS – and that’s all the training anybody really needs.

Last Updated: November 22, 2012

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