Violinist Plays During His Own Brain Surgery

Call it a performance worthy of a standing ovation: a violinist who recently underwent brain surgery performed during his own operation, all so doctors could properly analyze him in the moment.

As IFLScience reports, musician Roger Frisch, who plays violin with the Minnesota Orchestra, recently underwent a procedure in which an electrode was implanted in his thalamus. A treatment for degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, the electrode was meant to correct tremors that Frisch had been experiencing. In any other line of work, they would be ignored, but for a violinist, the issue was potentially debilitating.

Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, which the violinist underwent, is still considered an experimental treatment by some in the medical field, but has been shown to improve the condition of patients with essential tremor, as Bustle reports. For Frisch, who has played violin with the orchestra for 40 years, and currently holds the position of associate concertmaster, it was a way of regaining the precision of his hand movements, which constitute his livelihood.

Frisch’s surgery took place at the Mayo Clinic Neural Engineering Lab, during which Surgeon Kendall Lee and his team implanted electrodes within their patient’s brain. His tremor was so small that they were unsure exactly where in the brain to place the electrodes, until it was suggested that they allow him to play during surgery in order to measure his brain’s responses.

A violin apparatus was constructed by Mayo Clinic Engineer Kevin Bennet, allowing doctors to measure Frisch’s movements and identify the aberrant ones. The violinist played for an hour and a half before the surgery while doctors monitored him. After the implantation of the first wire, much of his tremor had subsided, but with the placement of the second electrode in his brain, it vanished completely. Three weeks after the surgery, Frisch was able to play a full sextet, and reports that his tremor is now gone.

As The Inquisitr has previously noted, cerebral electrodes can also be used to treat more severe brain disorders, such as epilepsy. The technique can also be utilized to combat depression, OCD, and chronic pain, as well as Parkinson’s disease, and dystonia.

When Roger Frisch next raises his bow with the Minnesota Orchestra, it will not only be the result of a lifetime of practice, but also the efforts of his brain surgeons, directed by his violin.

[Image via Consequence of Sound]