Worked for a brain tumor while playing the piano


CESENA – It is not the first time that happens in the world and not even in Italy, but when a patient is operated on in the 'awake' brain, it is always a rare case in itself. The last intervention of this type in our country was carried out in Cesena by a specialized team of the Bufalini hospital on a very special patient: a jazz musician, struck by a brain tumor, who for the entire duration of the operation has played the piano. With an extra exceptionality: during the operation, specific brain areas have been mapped for music, an element that will shed new light on the complexity of brain processes.
The interventions with the 'Awake Surgery' technique, the 'awake surgery', have long been cleared by some of the most followed medical dramas of TV and have ended up, for real, even on direct streaming via social media for educational purposes. They are performed in certain cases on patients who are left in waking conditions for a dual purpose: on the one hand, to remove the tumor mass and on the other to safeguard specific skills and quality of life after surgery.In the case of Cesena the doctors monitored all the time the musical skills of the operated person, a teacher and lover of jazz music, who while he was under the knife performed several piano pieces. Lasted about five hours, the intervention was carried out in recent days by a multidisciplinary team. "What makes it quite rare and exceptional – explains Dr. Luigino Tosatto, director of the Operative Unit of Neurosurgery of Bufalini together with doctors Vincenzo Antonelli and Giuseppe Maimone – is that in this patient for the first time we have localized specific brain areas for the music, very complex to detect, to preserve his musical abilities during the removal of the tumor mass. Moreover this approach will allow us to better understand the complexity of the brain processes that underlie some higher cognitive functions of the human mind, including artistic abilities and music. " Specifically, during the intervention, three musical comprehension skills were mapped: the recognition of melodic tones, the rhythm and the musical contour.

At Bufalini the technique of Awake Surgery began a few years after a period of improvement for neurosurgeons from Cesena in various centers, including the Department of Neurosciences of the University of Montpellier, directed by Professor Hughes Duffau, luminary of the subject. In Emilia-Romagna two years ago at the Sant'Anna di Ferrara the first intervention in Italy was carried out thus conceived on a brain tumor patient, another professional musician, operated as an awake while playing the clarinet. In April this year, however, for the first time in Southern Italy, a musician was brain-operated while playing the violin, at the Santissima Annunziata in Taranto. In 2014 Roger Fritsch, a violinist from the Minnesota Orchestra, suffering from hand tremors of neurological origin, underwent electrode implantation in a particular brain area while playing the violin at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (Minnesota). In Brazil, in 2015, not only did a patient play guitar while he had a brain operation but he also sang.

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