Functional neuroimaging technologies have transformed cognitive neuroscience by enhancing our understanding of the functional subclassification of brain regions. Whilst a number of studies have explored brain activation associated with complex motor skills, few of the tasks investigated have had direct occupational relevance. To date there have been no functional studies involving surgeons or motor paradigms with relevance to surgery. This study reports on the feasibility of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) for studying subjects performing realistic surgical tasks in a laboratory setting. We observed a recognisable haemodynamic response to brain activation, which was reliable and repeatable in subjects despite days without practice on the task. A wide range of prefrontal activation was observed, thought to reflect considerable variation in the cognitive resources allocated to complete a highly attention demanding surgical task.
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