The system did not increase cognitive load, researchers reported.
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New gestural technology could improve communication during laparoscopic surgery, researchers from University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) presented at the annual symposium of the American Medical Informatics Association.
Helena Mentis, Ph.D., associate dean for academic programs and learning at UMBC, developed a technology called the Virtual Pointer as a more effective way to train surgeons in laparoscopic techniques. Using the Virtual Pointer improved communication between the trainer and trainee, the researchers reported.
“This technology allows the surgical trainer to point at the live video and draw on it without touching it, so they can instruct the surgical trainee on how to perform the procedures,” said Andrea Kleinsmith, Ph.D., assistant professor of information systems at UMBC.
The Virtual Pointer helped trainees better visualize what to do next.
The research team measured the cognitive load of the surgical trainees through their physiological responses connected to levels of arousal. Specifically, the researchers were interested in electrodermal activity — the amount of sweat on the skin — which has been linked to cognitive load, Kleinsmith said.
Trainees wore wristbands to measure the amount of sweat and the researchers found that contrary to their prediction of initial cognitive load increase, it actually stayed the same.
And the technology incorporates visual and verbal information.
When trainees did not use the Virtual Pointer, they stopped their training more often to process their instructions.
“We found that, when using the system, not only did their cognitive load not increase, but they were actually able to perform more tasks than in the standard training,” said Kleinsmith.
Typically, trainees need to pay close attention to verbal instructions and learn how to turn the cues into action without relying on gestural interactions between the surgeon and live video.
The findings indicate that there could be a more efficient way to train surgeons.
More research is needed to test the efficacy of the technology and impact on cognitive load in active operating room settings, the researchers said.
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