Perceptual Motor Features of Expert Acupuncture Lifting-Thrusting Skills
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BACKGROUND: Little is known with regard to how acupuncture skills are optimally taught, learnt and evaluated despite clear evidence that technical skill acquisition is important to trainee success in health professions. OBJECTIVES: This study reports an investigation of the sensorimotor aspects of the acupuncture lifting-thrusting skill in order to highlight the important kinematic and kinetic features of the action. The study also explores the role of perceptual acuity in accurate acupuncture performance. METHODS: Twelve novice and 12 expert acupuncturists watched a standardised video demonstrating the mild reinforcing and reducing technique of lifting-thrusting on an acupuncture point and then performed 10 trials of the technique on an artificial skin pad mounted on a six-axis force transducer with an infrared light-emitting diode affixed to the index finger of their dominant hand. The force transducer measured the force applied by participants as they needled the acupuncture point while an optoelectric camera measured the position of the diode. Subsequently, the participants engaged in two tests of general perceptual acuity. RESULTS: Repeated measures analyses of variance indicated that experts are more consistent in their trial-by-trial amplitude (p=0.03) and lifting-thrusting velocity (p=0.029) than novices. Measures of perceptual acuity revealed no differences between novices and experts. CONCLUSIONS: Movement amplitude and velocity consistency are the action features of the mild reinforcing and reducing lifting-thrusting skill that differentiate the performances of experts from novices. The acquisition of acupuncture expertise is a function of extended practice rather than any inherent perceptual ability.
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