Use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy to evaluate cognitive change when using healthcare simulation tools

Natasha Taylor, Martyn Wyres, Martin Bollard, Rosie Kneafsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The use of brain imaging techniques in healthcare simulation is relatively rare. However, the use of mobile, wireless technique, such as functional
near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), is becoming a useful tool for assessing the unique demands of simulation learning. For this study, this imaging technique was used to evaluate cognitive load during simulation learning
This study took place in relation to six simulation activities, paired for similarity, and evaluated comparative cognitive change between the three task pairs. The three paired tasks were: receiving a (1) face-to-face and (2) video patient handover; observing a simulated scene in (1) two dimensions and (2) 360° field of vision; and on a simulated patient (1) taking a pulse and (2) taking a pulse and respiratory rate simultaneously. The total number of participants was n=12.
In this study, fNIRS was sensitive to variations in task difficulty in common simulation tools and scenarios, showing an increase in oxygenated
haemoglobin concentration and a decrease in deoxygenated haemoglobin concentration, as tasks increased in cognitive load.
Overall, findings confirmed the usefulness of neurohaemoglobin concentration markers as an evaluation tool of cognitive change in healthcare
simulation. Study findings suggested that cognitive load increases in more complex cognitive tasks in simulation learning events. Task performance that increased in complexity therefore affected cognitive markers, with increase in mental effort required.
Original languageEnglish
Article number000517
Pages (from-to)360-364
Number of pages5
JournalBMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning
Issue number6
Early online date3 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • fNIRS
  • simulation
  • cognitive load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Health Informatics
  • Modelling and Simulation


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