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Study: Teen gamers outperform medical residents in virtual surgery

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(Credit: UTMB)

Be careful mocking a teen playing video games. He or she may well be in a position to save your life someday.

A study at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston decided to pit a number of groups against each other to see who performed better using virtual surgery tools. The contestants? High-school sophomore gamers, college gamers and medical residents.

In the end, the high-school students won.

"We wanted to see their results compared to our physicians and they did slightly better … than our physicians in training," says Dr. Sami Kilic, Director of Texas Robotic Gynecology for UTMB. "And some of those physicians in training have already participated in actual cases. It tells me that [the] knowledge and skills gained from computer games [is easily] implemented into the robotic surgeries."

Each group was asked to perform a series of tasks with the device that replicated surgeries. All totaled, 32 skill sets were tested, ranging from hand-eye coordination to pressure on the controls.

Ultimately, the high schoolers, who played video games for an average of two hours per day, slightly bested the college students (who played four hours per day) and residents (who generally hadn't played at all).

Given the performance discrepancy between college and high school gamers, Kalic says the next step is to learn if there is an optimal number of hours to spend in front of games.

Video games have been shown to be beneficial to doctors and budding doctors before. In 2008, a study found that playing Wii games like Marble Mania helped surgical residents improve their fine motor skills and improved their performance on surgical simulators.

That motor skill improvement has even led to games being used to help stroke patients in their recovery.

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