• Neurosciences

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Brain mapping improves surgical outcomes

Just like a traveler uses a road map to find the most appropriate route to a destination, Mayo Clinic neurosurgeons are using a different kind of map to determine the best way to operate on the brain.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:06) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

"It's really amazing that we've gotten to the point that we can map out the brain so precisely," says Dr. Leslie Baxter, a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist.

Dr. Baxter is talking about brain mapping. Using imaging, such as an MRI, doctors determine the areas of your brain that control vision, language and movement — making surgery more precise and preserving those brain abilities. To map the brain, a patient is given instructions on a monitor while in the scanner.

"A simple task is: 'I want you to open and close your hand every time you see the word 'go' on the computer screen.' And that maps the hand motor system," she says.

If it's a vision task, the patient looks at something during the MRI. If it's a language task, it's reading words on the screen or listening to audio.

"So they're actually getting an MRI of their brain while they're doing an action," says Dr. Baxter.

And that map of the brain is beneficial for brain surgeons to protect those cognitive functions.

"They can see all of those structures and all of the function, real-time during surgeries to help them do their surgery the best way they can," says Dr. Baxter.

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