Man, mind, and machine: The past and future of virtual reality simulation in neurologic surgery

R. Aaron Robison, Charles Y. Liu, Michael L.J. Apuzzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Objective: To review virtual reality in neurosurgery, including the history of simulation and virtual reality and some of the current implementations; to examine some of the technical challenges involved; and to propose a potential paradigm for the development of virtual reality in neurosurgery going forward. Methods: A search was made on PubMed using key words surgical simulation, virtual reality, haptics, collision detection, and volumetric modeling to assess the current status of virtual reality in neurosurgery. Based on previous results, investigators extrapolated the possible integration of existing efforts and potential future directions. Results: Simulation has a rich history in surgical training, and there are numerous currently existing applications and systems that involve virtual reality. All existing applications are limited to specific task-oriented functions and typically sacrifice visual realism for real-time interactivity or vice versa, owing to numerous technical challenges in rendering a virtual space in real time, including graphic and tissue modeling, collision detection, and direction of the haptic interface. Conclusions: With ongoing technical advancements in computer hardware and graphic and physical rendering, incremental or modular development of a fully immersive, multipurpose virtual reality neurosurgical simulator is feasible. The use of virtual reality in neurosurgery is predicted to change the nature of neurosurgical education, and to play an increased role in surgical rehearsal and the continuing education and credentialing of surgical practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-430
Number of pages12
JournalWorld neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Collision detection
  • Haptics
  • Surgical simulation
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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