To determine the cognitive load of the surgical trainees, the researchers measured their physiological responses connected to levels of arousal. "In particular, we are interested in the electrodermal activity, which, [very simply] equates to the amount of sweat on the skin. It has been linked to cognitive load," Kleinsmith explains. They measured that electrodermal activity using wristbands worn by the trainees during training. They found that their cognitive load did not increase with the first use of the Virtual Pointer--instead, it stayed the same.
The Virtual Pointer also had a positive impact on the communication between trainer and trainee. Without the Virtual Pointer System, the trainees stopped the training to process their instructions more frequently. With the system, they were better able to continue performing the training while processing new information.
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"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," Kleinsmith explains.
Testing this tool required a partnership between researchers in two very different fields, with Mentis developing the technology and Kleinsmith measuring the viability of that technology in a real-world training setting. Their findings indicate that there is hope for more efficient training for surgeons through a tool that does not increase mental effort in the training experience. More research is needed on the impact of the Virtual Pointer System on cognitive load in active operating room settings.Back to HCB News