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Creighton med students research correlation between video game play and surgery

Posted: 5:17 PM, Sep 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-20 22:17:01Z

For many playing video games is a common way to have fun. But researchers are saying gameplay may have more benefits than you think. 

A group of four second-year med students at Creighton spend hours playing video games. However, this gameplay isn't just for fun. "Video games aren't all that evil, that's for sure,” said assistant Creighton professor, Dr. John Cote. Last year, Dr. Cote wanted to research if playing certain video games, a certain way would have benefits for med students and surgeons who perform common laparoscopic surgeries.

For that type of surgery, doctors insert instruments in small incisions and rely on cameras to see and move tools inside the body. "I saw that when I was doing laparoscopy it was almost like playing a video game,” said Dr. Cote. To see if there are benefits, the research group recruits Creighton med students to perform a skill set on a timed laparoscopic simulator. 48 hours later they have participants play a game called ‘Underground’, either with a normal game controller, one that more closely mimics a laparoscopic tool, or just use the simulator again to see if and how their time on the simulator has changed. "If you're an elite surgeon I think warming up or practicing actually makes a potential benefit with outcomes,” said Dr. Cote.

So far, "students who are warmed up usually perform better on the laparoscopic procedure because their spatial and depth perception is a lot better,” said Natasha Sioda, student research assistant. Dr. Cote says he hopes these results change how things are taught and executed in the medical field. "We're looking at how to train future surgeons but also how do help doctors that are already practicing actually become better in the OR,” said Dr. Cote. Because better performing surgeons mean improved patient care.

So far, around 50 students have participated in this research project but Dr. Cote says they will need more participants to definitively decide if video game play will positively affect how medical students and doctors learn how to perform and perform laparoscopic surgeries.