A new study from the Montreal Neurological Institute found that when it comes to teaching brain surgery, artificial intelligence (AI) performs better than real teachers.

Researchers compared students who used virtual reality and AI with those taught by humans, and found that students taught by machines learned twice as fast.

Traditionally, students learn neurosurgery by observing the operating room, and then slowly start doing small surgical tasks on their own.Related Stories

But usig a computer program, students can dive right in, as it simulates the feel and movements of the human brain.

“I think above all it just provides an opportunity for junior learners to get some hands on exposure,” said medical student Ali Fazlollahi.

In the virtual simulation, every action is recorded and analyzed, so the computer can tell students how to best proceed.

“If I were to be in the operating room and doing this on a patient’s brain, I would feel very strong emotions of stress and anxiety. Someone’s life is at stake. It would put a lot of pressure on me and it may interfere with how someone may learn,” said Fazlollahi.

It’s like learning to fly a plane in a flight simulator rather than at 4,000 feet in the air.

“Basically, it was inspired by the idea of how do we prevent error in the operating room,” said Neurosurgeon Dr. Rolando De Maestro.

Maestro says virtual reality has been a game changer when it comes to teaching.

“Let’s say you are a trainee and this is a new type of operation that you may not have seen before, we have simulations on the simulator that simulate many different types of operations so you can practice,” the director of the Neurosurgical Simulation Research Centre explained.

He says AI can make that practice closer to perfect.

“When you’re doing a simulated procedure, we can measure 6,000 things that your hands are doing at the same time. There’s no human that can deal with that amount of data. When you add artificial intelligence, you are able to deconstruct the complications and understand what makes an expert an expert.”