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This world-class violinist actually performed during brain surgery

on August 15, 2014, 3:59pm

When I was 17, I watched surgeons fix my brother’s broken shoulder by making a pinhole-sized cut into his armpit and using a robot to remove years of cartilage gained during his amateur pitching career. As spectacularly blown away as I was back then, that procedure’s nothing compared to what the doctors and surgeons at the Mayo Clinic did for world-class violinist Roger Frisch.

A few years back, Frisch developed a tremor in one of his hands; as one can imagine, it’s a life-altering malady for anyone whose job pretty much involves having perfect motor function in the ol’ phalanges. So, Frisch turned to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, who decided the best course of action would be deep brain stimulation, a surgery that involves sending electrical impulses directly into the brain.

Because Frisch’s tremor was quite mild, doctors weren’t sure they’d be able to find which part of the brain had been affected. That’s when they came up with a most amazing solution: have the world-class violinist play his instrument during actual brain surgery. Frisch’s bow was connected to an accelerometer, a device that measures acceleration, which sent data to a computer. By pinpointing when Frisch’s playing was at its most stable, surgeons were able to find the exact spot in his thalamus responsible for the tremors.

From there, the surgeons hooked up a series of electrodes into Frisch’s brain, which they later connected to a specially-built device. Before performances, Frisch turns on the device, which stimulates the problem area of his brain and corrects any tremor-related shaking. Less than a month after the surgery, Frisch played his first show, and revealed in an interview afterward that he hadn’t experienced a single tremor during his entire performance.

Watch a video feature on Frisch’s procedure below. Then, check out more photos of the surgery over at Buzzfeed.