The impact of spatial awareness training on spatial ability, anatomy learning, manual dexterity and surgical skills

  • Rene Gonzales

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Spatial ability (SA) is the capacity to understand and manipulate mental concepts of objects, remembering relationships among their parts and their surroundings.This ability is useful for orientation and navigation in anatomy and dissection, and may influence anatomy learning.
    First and second-year undergraduate medical students (N = 194, 56% female) scored well in SA (70, 25 [Median, IQR], men scored more than women: 70, 20 vs 60, 30; p < 0.01). Three months later, 104 students retook the SA test and scored higher than on the first (75, 20; Difference -5.7, p < 0.01); 29 of them (intervention group) received two sessions of Spatial Awareness Training (SATr), their post-training scores were not significantly different than those of the control group (n = 75) (Difference 0.24, p 0.95). Women in the intervention group scored more in the second test (p 0.03), than women in the control group (p 0.1), with no post –intervention difference between them (p 0.3). Men in both groups improved on the second test (Int. p < 0.001; Ctrl. p 0.02) with no post-test difference (p 0.1). Participants with scores in the bottom quartile in SA did poorly in the final anatomy score compared to the rest (p < 0.001), no correlation between SA scores and anatomy was apparent. In addition, the intervention group underwent testing in Manual Dexterity (MDx), the ability to use hands and fingers for specific tasks; this group improved after SATr (93.5 vs 103.3, p 0.02). There was no correlation between MDx and SA. Post-hoc power was 0.51. Improvement in SA and MDx scores may result from a learning effect and/or learning anatomy.
    Whilst SA and MDx may improve with time in the medical programme, the introduction of a compact programme of Spatial Awareness Training did not show significant benefits in spatial ability or anatomy. Future studies may aim at increasing sample size, power and duration of the intervention in a fully experimental design.
    Date of AwardSept 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorClaire F. Smith (Supervisor) & Gordon Ferns (Supervisor)

    Cite this