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Med Educ. 2008 Jun;42(6):607-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02964.x. Epub 2008 Apr 23.

Learning basic surgical skills with mental imagery: using the simulation centre in the mind.

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Scott & White Clinic, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, College of Medicine, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas, USA.



Although surgeons and athletes frequently use mental imagery in preparing to perform, mental imagery has not been extensively researched as a learning technique in medical education.


A mental imagery rehearsal technique was experimentally compared with textbook study to determine the effects of each on the learning of basic surgical skills.


Sixty-four Year 2 medical students were randomly assigned to 2 treatment groups in which they undertook either mental imagery or textbook study. Both groups received the usual skills course of didactic lectures, demonstrations, physical practice with pigs' feet and a live animal laboratory. One group received additional training in mental imagery and the other group was given textbook study. Performance was assessed at 3 different time-points using a reliable rating scale.


Analysis of variance on student performance in live rabbit surgery revealed a significant interaction favouring the imagery group over the textbook study group.


The mental imagery technique appeared to transfer learning from practice to actual surgery better than textbook study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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