A musician from China lay on the operating table while strumming on his guitar, as doctors performed brain surgery on him on Tuesday.
The 57-year-old musician, identified by the Chinese press [link in Chinese] as Mr. Li, was suffering from a rare neurological condition called musician’s dystonia. The disease causes muscle stiffness in sufferers, who gradually find themselves less able to play their instruments like they used to.
Li was required to stay conscious and play the guitar during the operation while doctors monitored electrodes in his brain to see which corresponding neurons were firing in response to the stimulation from playing.
According to China Daily, Li contracted the illness in the ’90s and it got progressively worse before he decided to undergo surgery. The man is from the northeastern province of Jilin, and travelled to the south to Shenzhen in Guangdong for the operation.
Cai Xiaodong, the surgeon who operated on Li, told Southern Daily that Li’s impaired brain function is now stimulated by battery-powered electrodes implanted in his shoulder. The batteries in the “brain pacemaker” last for about 10 years, Cai said.
After the procedure, Li reported that he had recovered 80% of his finger functions immediately, and his doctors say he will reach 100% with rehabilitation exercises.
While Li is reportedly one of just seven in the world that have been treated for dystonia this way, doctors have used musical instruments in other brain surgeries.
In 2013, a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease underwent surgery and played the guitar to help surgeons pinpoint where to place electrodes in his brain.
In December 2015, a Spanish musician played the saxophone during brain surgery to remove a tumour. The patient, Carlos Aguilera, needed to play the saxophone in order to indicate to doctors which parts of brain matter to touch, in order to prevent unnecessary damage.
BONUS: Musician beautifully plays the saxophone while having brain surgery
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