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Training visual pattern recognition in ophthalmology using a perceptual and adaptive learning module

Published:March 15, 2023DOI:



      To evaluate the efficacy of a perceptual and adaptive learning module (PALM) for teaching the identification of 5 optic nerve findings.


      Second- through fourth-year medical students were randomized to the PALM or a video didactic lecture. The PALM presented the learner with short classification tasks consisting of optic nerve images. Learner accuracy and response time guided the sequencing of successive tasks until mastery was achieved. The lecture was a narrated video designed to simulate a portion of a traditional medical school lecture. Accuracy and fluency on a pretest, post-test, and 1-month delayed test were compared within and between groups.


      Eighty-three students participated. Accuracy and fluency improved significantly (p < 0.001) from pretest to post-test for both the PALM (accuracy, Cohen's d = 2.94; fluency, d = 3.39) and the lecture (accuracy, d = 2.32; fluency, d = 1.06). For the delayed test, PALM performance remained significantly greater (p < 0.001) than the pretest in both accuracy (d = 0.89) and fluency (d = 1.16), whereas lecture performance remained greater in accuracy only (d = 0.44; p = 0.02).


      The PALM facilitated visual pattern recognition for optic nerve diseases among novice learners using a single brief self-guided session. The PALM may be applied alongside traditional didactic lectures to expedite visual pattern recognition in ophthalmology.
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