Episode 2 - Awake Brain Surgery
Chaisit-Charles has a tumour in his brain. For four years he has
suffered from epilepsy, caused by the abnormal electrical activity of the tumour. Recently it has started to affect his short-term memory. The cancer is growing in the left temporal lobe – the area of the brain that controls language. If the tumour continues to grow, Peter’s speech
could be affected.
Neurosurgeon Paul Grundy removes a section of Peter's skull to gain access to his brain. He then 'maps' Peter's brain, to make sure he
cuts out only the tumour and nothing else. He applies small electric currents to the exposed area of Peter's brain. At the same time, he asks
Peter to count aloud. Whenever Peter’s counting is off, the surgeon knows he
is zapping vital brain tissue involved in language. If Peter's speech remains unaffected, the
surgeon knows those areas of tissue are safe to remove.
He then carefully
cuts out as much of the suspected tumour as he can. Any remaining tumourous
tissue will have to be treated using chemo or radiotherapy.