New strategies for selection and training of physicians are emerging. Previous studies have demonstrated a correlation between visual-spatial ability and visual working memory with surgical simulator performance. The aim of this study was to perform a detailed analysis on how these abilities are associated with metrics in simulator performance with different task content. The hypothesis is that the importance of visual-spatial ability and visual working memory varies with different task contents.
Twenty-five medical students participated in the study that involved testing visual-spatial ability using the MRT-A test and visual working memory using the RoboMemo computer program. Subjects were also trained and tested for performance in three different surgical simulators. The scores from the psychometric tests and the performance metrics were then correlated using multivariate analysis.
MRT-A score correlated significantly with the performance metrics Efficiency of screening (p = 0.006) and Total time (p = 0.01) in the GI Mentor II task and Total score (p = 0.02) in the MIST-VR simulator task. In the Uro Mentor task, both the MRT-A score and the visual working memory 3-D cube test score as presented in the RoboMemo program (p = 0.02) correlated with Total score (p = 0.004).
In this study we have shown that some differences exist regarding the impact of visual abilities and task content on simulator performance. When designing future cognitive training programs and testing regimes, one might have to consider that the design must be adjusted in accordance with the specific surgical task to be trained in mind.