When you’re undergoing a brain operation, you might not think to bring a musical instrument.

But when Tamar Dagmar recently had a brain tumor removed at King's College Hospital in London, the neurosurgeons told her not to forget her violin.

Dagmar, a concert violinist at the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra in the United Kingdom, was conscious while the doctors were working, and even played her instrument while they probed her brain.

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The operation is known as "awake craniotomy,” and it allows surgeons to see what is going on in the patient’s brain, which helps them avoid potential damage.

While the brain is exposed, surgeons perform "cortical mapping," which stimulates the surface of the brain with a small electrical probe.

Sometimes, the procedure causes twitching in a patient's limbs or face. Some patients describe a slight tingling feeling.

By mapping out the important regions of the brain, doctors are able to protect them.

After Dagmar’s surgery, the hospital reported that she was woken in the middle of the procedure in order to play the violin and "ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled Dagmar's delicate hand movements."

The basic concept of modern awake craniotomy was outlined more than 50 years ago in order to treat epilepsy.

The evolution of the "awake craniotomy" is a result of the medical community's effort to fully understand the human brain—which is, after all, the most amazing instrument on Earth.

Watch the video to see Tamar Dagmar play during her operation.

Published on Feb 19, 2020