Sneaking into the Brain with GPS-Like Technology

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“We want to sneak into the brain without the brain even realizing we were there.”

Dr. Keith Black has likened being a brain surgeon to being like a thief in the night.

“We want to sneak into the brain, get the tumor or get the vascular malformation, and get out without ever touching the brain, without the brain even realizing we were there,” says Dr. Black, chair of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai.

Now he has a GPS-like tool to map the trillions of crucial pathways webbing through the brain. The device is called the BrightMatter Guide, and it provides real-time, vibrantly colored 3D images to guide surgeons before and during surgery.

Read: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Neurosurgeon Keith Black

Before surgery, it helps Dr. Black and his colleagues plan out a safe corridor through the brain. Then it gives surgeons a real-time map around the brain’s neural connections during surgery—just like GPS.

The human brain has 100 billion brain cells, but 100 trillion connections controlling language, vision, and movement. “Now, for the first time, we can see those important connections and make sure that we don’t damage them,” says Black. What does this mean for patients? Dr. Black explains in the video above.

Cedars-Sinai performs about 600 brain surgeries a year. About a third of them will be performed using this new technology.

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