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Brain surgery simulator

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It may look like a video game, but it's actually serious business. Jonathan Rasoli, a first-year resident at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is using a virtual reality simulator to hone his brain surgery skills.

"The machine actually simulates the sounds, the feelings, the actual tactile feedback that you'd get if you're actually standing there in the OR," Rasoli said.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine is the first in the U.S. to use the Neurotouch simulator. It's 3-D software and handheld controls closely mimic actual brain surgeries, allowing residents to practice procedures before they perform them on patients.

"I think it has tremendous potential to improve and potentially revolutionize how we train and prepare for surgeries," said Dr. Joshua Bederson, the chair of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The simulator measures speed, accuracy and blood loss. And if surgeons are cutting away a tumor, it records how much of the growth is removed as well as healthy tissue. Doctors also hope to one day import scans of individual patients onto the device before their operations.

"If we can practice that in a virtual reality environment we might be more accurate and my guess is and my hope, reduce complications," Bederson said.

Rasoli tries to use the Neurotouch two or three times a week.

"Getting that early training, being more experienced and being more confident in the OR can only be more beneficial to our patients," Rasoli said.

Training to become a neurosurgeon takes seven years. The extra practice on the Neurotouch may be able to cut down that time.

Simulators are already used in laparoscopic surgery. This is a first though for brain surgery. The National Research council of Canada designed the Neurotouch.

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