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Better brain imaging helps surgeons avoid damage to language functions

Advances in neurosurgery have opened the operating room door for an amazing array of highly invasive forms of brain surgery, but doctors and patients still face an incredibly important decision - whether to operate when life-saving surgery could irrevocably damage a patient's ability to speak, read or even comprehend a simple conversation.

Now, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a painless, non-invasive imaging technique that surgeons here already are using to better evaluate brain surgery risks and to more precisely guide operations so that damage to sensitive language areas is avoided.

The breakthrough holds the promise of safer surgeries for the nearly 200,000 Americans diagnosed with brain tumors each year. It also may significantly improve odds of success in an increasingly common epilepsy surgery in which large damaged sections of a patient's temporal brain lobe are removed in an effort to alleviate severe seizures.

The Washington University mapping technique, which captures functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) of the brain as patients performs simple language functions, has the potential to replace or improve upon two much more invasive and dangerous brain mapping techniques, both of which are now commonly used before or during most brain surgeries.

In a forthcoming article in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, a Washington University research team presents a recent brain surgery case in which their fMRI brain mapping technique helped pinpoint the unusual location of language centers in a patient with a long history of severe epileptic seizures, including information critical to the surgery's success.

Other research has utilized fMRI testing to define language areas in the brain, but the Washington University technique has proven to be especially effective due to the integration of a "false memory" word processing test that asks patients to remember a list of rapidly presented wor
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Contact: Gerry Everding
gerry_everding@wustl.edu
314-935-6375
Washington University in St. Louis
11-Nov-2003


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