A recent study links new surgeons’ improved performance in the operating room and a few hours a week playing games on the Nintendo Wii. The study comes from the University of Rome Medical School, and focused on post-graduate residents during four-week training sessions on minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy) procedures. Half of the students, already learning new skills, played Wii games and the other half did not. The gamer group won out, according to a statement, and “showed a significant improvement over the other group.” The researchers hope this study, published on February 27 in PLOS ONE, will lead the development of software aimed at young surgeons to help increase their OR skills.
It’s not as if the students were gaming constantly, either; the participants only played Wii games for one hour five days a week. They weren’t playing a surgery simulator, but played games ranging from a dog fighting game, to tennis, table tennis and an airplane battle.
The increase in spatial attention and hand-eye coordination skills documented in this study confirms what many gamers already know: gaming is not a useless hobby but can have real-world, tangible benefits. ABC News lists a number of the benefits of video games, including a link between educational video games and improved early literacy skills, improved cognitive abilities in adults, increased ability to multitask, and increased social skills, when the gaming is shared with others. Of course these benefits depend on other factors–ranging from the titles played to the amount of interaction among individuals–but the image of the lonely, isolated gamer isn’t one confirmed by such studies. Games have the potential to make individuals better able to do their jobs and better able to participate in their communities.
In short: game on, surgeons.