James C. Rosser Jr., M.D., of Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, and colleagues asked 33 surgeons (21 residents and 12 attending physicians) about their video game–playing habits, then assessed their performance at the Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing Program, a one-and-a-half day course that scores surgeons on time and errors during simulated surgery drills. During the study, conducted from May through August, 2002, the surgeons also played three video games for 25 minutes while the researchers assessed their gaming skills.
Of the surgeons who participated in the study, 15 reported never playing video games, nine reported playing zero to three hours per week, and nine reported playing more than three hours per week at the height of their video game playing. "Surgeons who had played video games in the past for more than three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors [in the Top Gun course], were 27 percent faster and scored 42 percent better overall than surgeons who never played video games. Current video game players made 32 percent fewer errors, were 24 percent faster and scored 26 percent better overall than their non-player colleagues," the authors write. Those in the top one-third of video gaming skill made 47 percent fewer errors, performed 39 percent faster and scored 41 percent better on the overall Top Gun score than those in the bottom one-third.
"Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery," the authors conclude. "Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons."