A team of scientists and clinicians from the University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital and Neurophys have collaborated to develop a new technique to provide surgeons with real-time feedback on the patient’s brain activity during tumor surgery in theatre.
Led by Yaara Erez and Michael Hart and Pedro Coelho, the team developed a new approach, which will allow patients to get an accurate and personalized read-out of their brain networks.
The University of Cambridge’s MRC cognition and brain sciences unit neuroscientist Dr Erez said: “At the moment, neurosurgeons only know about function in the average brain – they have no patient-specific information.
“But there’s been huge progress in brain imaging and electrophysiology – our understanding of the electricity within our bodies – so why not use this information to improve brain surgery? We are aiming to bring all this knowledge into the theatre, providing surgeons with integrated data and the best tools to support their work.”
As part of the approach, the patients will undergo multiple neuroimaging examinations through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before surgery, enabling to identify the exact location of the tumor and how different regions of their brains communicate with each other.
Under the process, the 3D-printed copy of the patient’s brain will be used for detecting the location of the tumor.
The model has been framed to facilitate surgeons plan the surgery, discuss with the patient the potential risks from surgery and engage the patient in decisions over which tissue to remove.
Erez further noted: “Doctors need to be able to talk through the options with patients, and we hope that using neuroimaging data and presenting this as a 3D model will help surgeons with the planning of surgery and ensure patients are better informed about the risks and benefits from surgery.”
The surgeon will place electrodes on the surface of the brain to listen to their brain activity, once the patient’s skull has been opened during surgery.
A computer algorithm will study the information, when the patient undergoes a battery of cognitive tests, enabling to provide live feedback to the surgeon. It will help the surgeon to predict more accurately the impact of removing a particular area of brain tissue.
The combination of enhanced cognitive tests and a more accurate understanding of an individual patient’s networks will allow surgeons to monitor potential impairment to executive function during surgery.
The team has already gathered information from 12 patients, which was collected before, during and after surgery.
At present, the information is being analyzed offline and will help them determine the best measures to carry out ideal tasks for patients and optimize the analysis.