COGNITIVE SIMULATION  -  For surgeons across specialties


How does it work

It is now recognized that our mind cannot differentiate between a real and an imagined experience, provided the experience is imagined in a specific manner. If done correctly, the same building of neural pathways occurs, through imagined practice, as it does through actual practice. Thus, we have the potential to make mental practice almost, if not as effective as physical practice. Studies have shown that kinesthetically imagined muscle movement is recorded on electromyogram, imagined visual sensation affects the cerebral blood flow in the occipital cortex and imagination of auditory stimulus is recorded on the Positron Emission Tomogram (PET) of the temporal cortex. All these effects are similar to the changes seen in actual perception.

Cognitive simulation is not simply 'seeing in the mind's eye'. The difference is similar to watching a procedure on video and practicing on a simulator. Thus one of the differentiating point of cognitive simulation is the inclusion of kinesthetic sensation. The other senses to be included are tactile, auditory, olfactory and verbal. When you are able to practice a procedure incorporating all these senses, the effect will be the same as actually performing the procedure. Some people are able to generate these sensations easily but others require deliberate efforts and practice.

There are special types of neurons in frontal cortex known as mirror neurons. These neurons play an important role in developing a skill. Cognitive simulation helps the process by stimulating the mirror neurons


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