A key simulation component is its capability to elicit physiological changes, improving recall. The primary aim was to determine whether parasympathetic responses to head-mounted display simulations (HMDs) were noninferior to in-person simulations. The secondary aims explored sympathetic and affective responses and learning effectiveness.
The authors conducted a noninferiority trial. Hospital providers who did not use chronotropic medications, have motion sickness, or have seizures were included. The authors randomized participants to in-person or HMD simulation. Biometric sensors collected respiratory sinus arrhythmia and skin conductance levels to measure parasympathetic and sympathetic states at baseline, during, and after the simulation. Affect was measured using a schedule. The authors measured 3-month recall of learning points and used split-plot analysis of variance and Mann-Whitney U tests to analyze.
One hundred fifteen participants qualified, and the authors analyzed 56 in each group. Both groups experienced a significant change in mean respiratory sinus arrhythmia from baseline to during and from during to afterward. The difference of change between the groups from baseline to during was 0.134 (95% confidence interval = 0.142 to 0.410, P = 0.339). The difference of change from during the simulation to after was −0.060 (95% confidence interval = −0.337 to 0.217, P = 0.670). Noninferiority was not established for either period. Sympathetic arousal did not occur in either group. Noninferiority was not established for the changes in affect that were demonstrated. The mean scores of teaching effectiveness and achievement scores were not different.
Although a parasympathetic and affective response to the video simulation on an HMD did occur, it was not discernibly noninferior to in-person in this study.