E. Kok, B. Sorger, Andreas Gegenfurtner, K. van Geel, I. Heyligers, De Bruin, A. B.
The Neural Implementation of Surgical Expertise Within the Mirror-Neuron System: An fMRI Study
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 12
Motor expertise is an important aspect of high-level performance in professional tasks such as surgery. While recently it has been shown that brain activation as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) within the mirror-neuron system (MNS) is modulated by expertise in sports and music, little is known about the neural underpinnings of professional, e.g., surgical expertise. Here, we investigated whether and (if so) how surgical expertise is implemented in the MNS in medical professionals across three levels of surgical qualification. In order to answer the more specific research question, namely, if the neural implementation of motor expertise develops in a linear or non-linear fashion, the study compares not only brain activation within the MNS related to action observation of novices and experts, but also intermediates. Ten novices (medical students), ten intermediates (residents in orthopedic surgery) and ten experts (orthopedic surgeons) watched 60 video clips (5 s each) of daily-life activities and surgical procedures each while their brain activation was measured using a 3-T fMRI scanner. An established localization procedure was followed to functionally define the MNS for each participant individually. A 2 (video type: daily-life activities, surgical procedures) × 3 (expertise level: novice, intermediate, expert) ANOVA yielded a non-significant interaction. Furthermore, separate analyses of the precentral and parietal part of the MNS also yielded non-significant interactions. However, post hoc comparisons showed that intermediates displayed marginally significantly lower brain activation in response to surgery-related videos within the MNS than novices. No other significant differences were found. We did not find evidence for the hypothesis that the brain-activation level in the MNS evoked by observing surgical videos reflects the level of surgical expertise in the professional task of (orthopedic) surgery. However, the results suggest a potential non-linear relationship between expertise level and MNS-activation level.
E. Kok, Andreas Gegenfurtner, K. van Geel, H. Jarodzka, J.J.G. van Merriënboer, A. Bruin, A. Szulewski
The challenges of studying visual expertise in medical image diagnosis
Medical Education, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 97-104
Visual expertise is the superior visual skill shown when executing domain-specific visual tasks. Understanding visual expertise is important in order to understand how the interpretation of medical images may be best learned and taught. In the context of this article, we focus on the visual skill of medical image diagnosis and, more specifically, on the methodological set-ups routinely used in visual expertise research.
We offer a critique of commonly used methods and propose three challenges for future research to open up new avenues for studying characteristics of visual expertise in medical image diagnosis. The first challenge addresses theory development. Novel prospects in modelling visual expertise can emerge when we reflect on cognitive and socio-cultural epistemologies in visual expertise research, when we engage in statistical validations of existing theoretical assumptions and when we include social and socio-cultural processes in expertise development. The second challenge addresses the recording and analysis of longitudinal data. If we assume that the development of expertise is a long-term phenomenon, then it follows that future research can engage in advanced statistical modelling of longitudinal expertise data that extends the routine use of cross-sectional material through, for example, animations and dynamic visualisations of developmental data. The third challenge addresses the combination of methods. Alternatives to current practices can integrate qualitative and quantitative approaches in mixed-method designs, embrace relevant yet underused data sources and understand the need for multidisciplinary research teams.
Embracing alternative epistemological and methodological approaches for studying visual expertise can lead to a more balanced and robust future for understanding superior visual skills in medical image diagnosis as well as other medical fields.