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Eye Training for Surgeons

December 21, 2011

Surgeons, like athletes, may benefit from learning to use their eyes like experts.



Teaching surgeons where to look.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Surgeons should train their eyes as well as their hands, according to researchers in Britain and Hong Kong.  University of Exeter psychologist Samuel Vine applied his insights from sports research.  He’s taught athletes to imitate the eye movements of top players, before turning to physical skills.

SAMUEL VINE (University of Exeter, England):

What this work has shown really, is actually that it leads to an improvement in how quickly they learn these skills, but most importantly, it actually enables them to perform those skills under pressure and to maintain performance in nerve-wracking or stressful circumstances.

In this study, medical students wore eye-tracking devices during simulated surgeries.  They learned to mimic the eye movements of experienced surgeons – for instance, by focusing on the target tissue rather than the instruments.  Sure enough, these students performed better under stress than those who studied hand movements, or who were left to train themselves.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.