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Musical Brain Surgery

Brain Mapping is allowing surgeons to perform operations where the patient plays music to ensure the surgery is going well. 

  • The sound of a woodwind instrument was a welcomed sign of successful surgery for Doctors at the University of Rochester Medical centre in 2015. 
  • Fabbio who was a music teacher needed surgery to remove a tumour from his brain, without impacting his musical abilities.  
  • Elizabeth Marvin, PhD, a professor of music theory who also works in the department of brain and cognitive sciences and studies music cognition, developed several music tasks for Fabbio, including listening to brief melodies and humming them back during fMRI scanning.  
  • He was handed his saxophone when woken up after hours of surgery, and as the team held their breath, he started playing the song beautifully.  
  • That is when they knew his musical abilities were still intact, the tumour had been removed and everything was successful.  

As doctors understand in greater detail how the brain works, the ability to save or restore important capabilities grows increasingly possible. 
In this case, Fabbio was able to preserve his musical abilities through playing music during brain surgery. With continued research and testing, the future for musical brain surgery is promising.  



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Article written by: Kimberly Holland 

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