Brain scans, AI evaluate surgeons’ response to stress, learning new skills

Determining how surgeons and physicians learn new skills or respond to a stressful situation may be unveiled with recently published neuroimaging research, the Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 3. 

Researchers found that artificial intelligence could identify novice from experienced surgeons by analyzing 30 brain scans of surgeons and trainees as they performed surgical simulations.  

Specifically, skilled surgeons had higher activity in the motor cortex responsible for movement, according to the researcher's findings detailed in a study published in Sciences Advances.  

For the study, researchers used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in the form of a helmet for the surgeons to wear to measure whether blood flowing to the brain is oxygenated or not, determining brain activity. Although the researchers said the system is still in early testing stages, the test was more accurate than current professional tests, according to the article.  

"We believe that this noninvasive imaging approach for objective quantification for complex bimanual motor skills will bring about a paradigm change in broad applications, such as surgical certification and assessment, aviation training, and motor skill rehabilitation and therapy," wrote lead author Arun Nemani, PhD, a biomedical engineer with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and colleagues. 

Read the Wall Street Journal’s entire article below.