There are instances during brain surgery in which a patient has to remain awake. This is known as intraoperative brain mapping and is usually done when tumors are removed that are too close to areas of the brain that controls the body, like vision, language, and movement. We’ve heard about this and have probably seen it on TV as well.
However recently in Paris, it seems that one patient not only remained awake, but also donned a pair of virtual reality glasses while undergoing brain surgery, making this the first time such an event has taken place. According to Philippe Menei, a neurosurgeon at Angers hospital in western France, “In creating a completely artificial world for the patient, we could map certain zones and connections of his brain related to functions that we could not, up to now, easily test on the operating table.”
Menei adds that by being able to control what the patient sees, it allowed the doctors to put the patient in situations to test for certain neural connections that they weren’t able to simulate before, at least not within the confines of an operating theater. Apparently thanks to the use of virtual reality, the patient retained his vision despite the fact that the tumor was removed in a region controlling sight.
Of course it is possible that this would have happened without virtual reality, but the tests allowed for better control and precision to ensure that during the operation, the patient could still see. According to Menei, “In this empty void, we could control the space and make luminous objects appear in the patient’s peripheral vision.” So it seems that while an obvious use for video games, virtual reality has a lot more potential beyond just entertainment.
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