A new study published in Surgical Endoscopy has found that surgeons can learn their skills quicker and handle stress better if they are taught eye movement control. Researchers identified the differences in eye movements of expert surgeons and devised a gaze training program that taught novices the “expert” visual control patterns.

Divided into groups, the “gaze trained” students were shown a video that was captured by an eye tracker and displayed the visual control of an experienced surgeon. The video demonstrated that successful surgeons “lock” their eyes to a critical location while performing complex movements using surgical instruments. This method prevented them from tracking the tip of the surgical tool, improved accuracy, and reduced distractions.

The students then wore the same eye-tracking device that encouraged adoption of the same eye movements as those of the expert surgeon. After performing the task several times, the students’ eye movements soon mimicked those of a far more experienced surgeon.

Novices who underwent this training program were able to learn technical skills faster than fellow students as well as perform these skills despite distractions similar to those found in an actual operating room. Members of the other groups did not learn as quickly. Furthermore, their performance deteriorated under conditions simulating a real-life operating environment that required multitasking.