Virtual reality guides surgeons

If a brain tumor develops, the doctor may suggest surgery to the patient, if the location of the affected cells allows it*. If you choose this option, how can you prevent brain surgery from damaging important areas of the brain? This is a question asked by researchers from Nantes and Angers Vinh from the French National Institute of Health**.

In clinical trials of more than 40 patients, scientists have relied on virtual reality. It is a technique used to map different areas of the brain involved in important functions such as language and motor skills. But also social cognition.

The importance of non-language

What does social cognition mean in the first place? This concept covers non-verbal languages ​​(gestural communication, showing empathy, search intent), creates meaning during discussions, absorbs what is said, and expresses our feelings.

In short, “anything that allows us to socialize,” emphasizes Dr Philippe Minay, MD, University Hospital Angers, hospital practitioner and researcher at CRCINA.

Until now, during brain tumor surgery, neurosurgeons have been interested in preserving the left hemisphere***, which is primarily the area of ​​language. “We’re not very interested in nonverbal languages ​​and other areas related to social cognitive function,” Minnie regrets.

“But these violations can have a significant impact on patients.” However, the consequences of seizure-associated brain damage in these areas negatively affect the patient’s quality of life. They increase the risks of contact, withdrawal, and quarantine problems.

Avatar that stimulates eye contact

To solve this problem, Professor Minai’s team has developed “vigilance surgery techniques that allow the mapping of important areas of the brain that must be preserved during surgery.”

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Thanks to the virtual reality headset, “the patient is immersed in a world where avatars try to establish visual contact with him. These avatars are interactive. When the patient visually corrects, facial emotions are generated. Conversely, if the patient does not make eye contact, the avatar will not respond, It is a sign that a core area of ​​social cognition is affected.”

In the brain, the electrodes can paralyze certain areas for a few seconds. This approach allows us to “examine each of these domains and determine what ‘prevents’ social interaction with the avatar when temporarily paralyzed.”

One of the most effective ways to implement interventions is on a case-by-case basis, depending on each patient’s specific brain circuit. This may be important not only in patients with brain damage from tumors or vascular abnormalities, but also in the treatment of epileptic areas.

Be careful: Each year in France, more than 5,000 patients are treated for brain tumors.

Other standard treatments are radiotherapy and chemotherapy

** Unit 1232 Inserm/CNRS/University of Nantes/University of Angers, Nantes-Angers Cancer and Immunology Research Center (CRCINA)

*** Among the right-handed

Source: Inserm July 29, 2021

Frank Mccarthy

<p class="sign">"Certified gamer. Problem solver. Internet enthusiast. Twitter scholar. Infuriatingly humble alcohol geek. Tv guru."</p>

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