Brain-in-the-Loop Learning Using fNIR and Simulated Virtual Reality Surgical Tasks: Hemodynamic and Behavioral Effects

  • Patricia A. ShewokisEmail author
  • Hasan Ayaz
  • Lucian Panait
  • Yichuan Liu
  • Mashaal Syed
  • Lawrence Greenawald
  • Faiz U. Shariff
  • Andres Castellanos
  • D. Scott Lind
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9183)


Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) is a noninvasive, portable optical imaging tool to monitor changes in hemodynamic responses (i.e., oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO)) within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in response to sensory, motor or cognitive activation. We used fNIR for monitoring PFC activation during learning of simulated laparoscopic surgical tasks throughout 4 days of training and testing. Blocked (BLK) and random (RND) practice orders were used to test the practice schedule effect on behavioral, hemodynamic responses and relative neural efficiency (EFFrel-neural) measures during transfer. Left and right PFC for both tasks showed significant differences with RND using less HbO than BLK. Cognitive workload showed RND exhibiting high EFFrel-neural across the PFC for the coordination task while the more difficult cholecystectomy task showed EFFrel-neural differences only in the left PFC. Use of brain activation, behavioral and EFFrel-neural measures can provide a more accurate depiction of the generalization or transfer of learning.


Cognitive effort and learning fNIR Simulation Virtual reality Transfer Brain sensors and measures Contextual interference 



This study was funded in part under a Drexel University College of Medicine and International Blue Cross Seed Grant #1312002473 (Panait, PI) and National Science Foundation (NSF) grant IIS: 1064871 (Shewokis, PI).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Shewokis
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Hasan Ayaz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lucian Panait
    • 3
  • Yichuan Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mashaal Syed
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lawrence Greenawald
    • 3
  • Faiz U. Shariff
    • 3
  • Andres Castellanos
    • 3
  • D. Scott Lind
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health SystemsDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Cognitive Neuroengineering and Quantitative Experimental Research (CONQUER) CollaborativeDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Surgery, College of MedicineDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Nutrition Sciences Department, College of Nursing and Health ProfessionsDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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