Surgical Endoscopy

, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 4087–4095 | Cite as

Distribution of innate psychomotor skills recognized as important for surgical specialization in unconditioned medical undergraduates

  • Andrea MogliaEmail author
  • Luca Morelli
  • Vincenzo Ferrari
  • Mauro Ferrari
  • Franco Mosca
  • Alfred Cuschieri



There is an increasing interest for a test assessing objectively the innate aptitude for surgery as a craft specialty to complement the current selection process of surgical residents. The aim of this study was to quantify the size of individuals with high, average, and low level of innate psychomotor skills among medical students.


A volunteer sample of 155 medical students, without prior experience with surgical simulator, executed five tasks at a virtual simulator for robot-assisted surgery. They had to reach proficiency twice consecutively in each before moving to the next one. A weighting based on time and number of attempts needed to reach proficiency was assigned to each task.


Nine students (5.8%) out of 155 significantly outperformed all the others on median (i.q.r.) weighted time [44.7 (42.2–47.3) min vs. 98.5 (70.8–131.8) min, p < 0.001], and number of attempts to reach proficiency [14 (12–15) vs. 23 (19–32.75), p < 0.001). Seventeen students (11.0%) scored significantly much worse than the rest on median weighted time [202.2 (182.5–221.0) min vs. 84.3 (65.7–114.4) min, p < 0.001], and number of attempts [42 (40–48) vs. 22 (17.25–28), p < 0.001]. Low correlation between simulator scores and extracurricular activities, like videogames and musical instruments, was found.


The test successfully identified two groups straddling the large cohort with average innate aptitude for psychomotor skills: (i) innately gifted and (ii) with scarce level. Hence, exercises on a virtual simulator are a valid test of innate manual dexterity and can be considered to complement the selection process for a surgical training program, primarily to identify individuals with low innate aptitude for surgery and advise them to consider specialization in other (non-craft) medical specialties.


Innate aptitude for surgery Innate ability test for surgery da Vinci simulator Robotic surgery simulator 



Fondazione Arpa ( supported the study and donated dV-Trainer simulator to EndoCAS Center. The authors thank Mr. Rick Corlett and Mr. Andreas Koch from Mimic Corporation for the technical support during the study.

Compliance with ethical standards


Andrea Moglia, Luca Morelli, Vincenzo Ferrari, Mauro Ferrari, Franco Mosca, Alfred Cuschieri have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Moglia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luca Morelli
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vincenzo Ferrari
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mauro Ferrari
    • 1
  • Franco Mosca
    • 4
  • Alfred Cuschieri
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.EndoCAS, Center for Computer Assisted SurgeryUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.Multidisciplinary Center of Robotic SurgeryUniversity Hospital of PisaPisaItaly
  3. 3.Information Engineering DepartmentUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  4. 4.Cisanello Teaching Hospital of PisaPisaItaly
  5. 5.Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of PisaPisaItaly
  6. 6.Institute for Medical Science and TechnologyUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK

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