Wednesday, December 26, 2007

PORTAL and your Surgeon - The Cake is a Lie.

In October I wrote about spatial perception and the concept of being left or right brained as it applied to your surgeon. While generalities about artistic taste or surgical ability being associated with left/right dominant brained people and the like as it applies to individuals is a silly idea, I definitely think the ability to understand and intuit spatial relations is important.

Much like a pool hustler understands the geometry and physics of a bank shot without getting a compass and calculating force vectors, surgeons process symmetry, proportion, and volumetric relationships. With laparoscopic surgical techniques utilizing small cameras and long, remote instruments there are several studies suggesting that people who are good at video games tend to be better at laparoscopy. Researchers found that surgeons who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.

I think I've discovered a great video-game proxy for Surgery. Valve Software published the title PORTAL this Fall as a under-publicized throw-in for their blockbuster video game, Half-Life 2. Portal is a unique puzzle game that is a real mind-bender in the way you have to understand spatial relations, momentum, physics, and inertia. It is also a really, really creepy experience in artificial intelligence (AI) paranoia. The phrase in the title of this post, "The cake is a lie....", is a critical plot device in the story. You can read plot spoilers on Wikipedia's Portal Page.

So next time you go to surgery, forget those questions about their experience, training, or board certification. Rather, find out how good they are at Portal :)

Portal's trailer is visible below via YouTube.


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