Surgeon suggests gaming a key to better real-life surgery

Virtual reality training can speed up laparoscopic surgery by 29% and reduce mistakes by a whopping 600%, according to a study cited by NVIDIA this week. The peer-reviewed study, which was published in "Annals of Surgery," resonates with many other studies pointing to gaming as a way to improve motor skills, memory, mental processing speeds, pain management and other skills.

Andrew Wright, who was interviewed by NVIDIA'S Brian Caulfield, is one surgeon who has long advocated on behalf of the direct benefits of gaming to medical doctors (as well as other professionals.) Wright himself is a fan of Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Peggle, Bejeweled, and formerly World of Warcraft. He maintains that gaming has long been a boon to his surgical skill set, having started gaming on an Atari 2600 and programming on Commodore 64. Today he is an advisor to the laparoscopic surgery simulation company Lapsin and regularly speaks about his experiences at medical conferences around the world.

"Gamers have a higher level of executive function," Wright said. "They have the ability to process information and make decisions quickly, they have to remember cues to what's going around you and you have to make split-second decisions." Wright specializes in video-endoscopic surgery, in which cameras smaller than 2mm in diameter are paired with micro-robotic tools.

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He even thinks it would be a good idea to add an EKG interpretation mini-game to Grand Theft Auto 5.

Meanwhile the research piles up. A University of Toronto study found that laparoscopic surgeons who warmed up on video game-like simulators before surgery did much better than those who did not get the virtual warm-up; and University of Japan Science and Technology Agency researchers found that video games "improve executive functions, working memory and processing speed in young adults."