BACKGROUND: In the literature of skill acquisition and transfer of skills, it often is assumed that the rate of skill acquisition depends on what has been learned in a similar context (i.e., surgical simulators providing haptic feedback). This study aimed to analyze whether the addition of haptic feedback early in the training phase for image-guided surgical simulation improves performance. METHODS: A randomized crossover study design was used, in which 38 surgical residents were randomized to begin a 2-h simulator training session with either haptic or nonhaptic training followed by crossover after 1 h. The graphic context was a virtual upper abdomen. The residents performed two diathermy tasks. Two validated tests were used to control for differences in visual-spatial ability: the BasIQ general cognitive ability test and Mental Rotation Test A (MRT-A). RESULTS: After 2 h of training, the group that had started with haptic feedback performed the two diathermy tasks significantly better (p < 0.05, unpaired t-test). Only the group that had started with haptic training significantly improved during the last 1-h session (p < 0.01, paired t-test). CONCLUSION: The findings indicate that haptic feedback could be important in the early training phase of skill acquisition in image-guided surgical simulator training.
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