Abe 2018

<< Return to Studies

The Effect of Visual-Spatial Ability on the Learning of Robot-Assisted Surgical Skills

Takashige Abe MD, PhD*† Nicholas Raison MBBS* Nobuo Shinohara MD, PhD† M.Shamim Khan FRCS* Kamran Ahmed FRCS, PhD* Prokar Dasgupta FRCS, MD*Abstract


The aim of this study was to determine the correlation of visual-spatial ability with progression along the learning curve for robotic surgical skills training.


A total of 21 novice participants were recruited. All participants completed a training program consisting of 5 training sessions of 30 minutes of virtual reality (VR) simulation and 30 minutes of dry laboratory training. The VR simulation part was the subject of the present study. During VR simulation training, participants performed the basic skill exercises of Camera Targeting 1, Pick and Place, and Peg Board 1 followed by advanced skill exercises of Suture Sponge 1 and Thread the Rings. The visual-spatial ability was assessed using a mental rotation test (MRT). Pearson correlation coefficients were used to assess the relationship between the MRT score and simulator score for the aforementioned 5 tasks. Student t test was used to compare the simulator score between high- and low-MRT score groups.


A median MRT score of 26/40 (range: 13-38) was observed. Approximately 19 participants completed the full curriculum but 2 did not complete “Thread the Rings” during the study period. A significant correlation was observed between the MRT score and simulator score only in “Suture Sponge 1” over the first 3 attempts (first: r = 0.584, p = 0.0054; second: r = 0.443, p = 0.0443; third: r = 0.4458, p = 0.0428). After the third attempt, this significant correlation was lost. Comparison of the score for “Suture Sponge 1” between the high-MRT and low-MRT scoring participants divided by a median MRT score of 26 also showed a significant difference in the score until the third trial.


Our observations suggest that the spatial cognitive ability influences the initial learning of robotic suturing skills. Further studies are necessary to verify the usefulness of an individual’s spatial ability to tailor the surgical training program.

Click here for the full study