March 19, 2024

Brain monitoring helps understand, combat cognitive overload in surgeons

Editor's Note

Researchers at Imperial College London are using noninvasive brain monitoring to understand the stressors contributing to cognitive overload in surgeons as well as how to combat the condition. The Guardian reported the news on March 2.

The monitoring technique, called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), measures neural activity in the brain. Previous research revealed that newer surgeons had more pre-frontal brain activity during surgery than experienced doctors, and that this pre-frontal activity was more easily disrupted during moments of stress and low performance. Now, researchers are evaluating these fNIRS signatures of cognitive overload—which is tied to performance dips—by tracking the brain activity of surgeon trainees during successively more challenging simulated surgical tasks.

In addition to better understanding the connection between brain activity and low performance during stressful surgical moments, the team is also investigating the possible use transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which involves introducing a light electrical current to improve surgical performance.

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