University of Iowa neurosurgeons study cooling technique that protects brain centers during neurosurgery

Hiroyuki Oya, portrait
Oya Hiroyuki, MD

Matthew Howard, portrait
Matthew Howard, MD

Jeremy Greenlee, portrait
Jeremy Greenlee, MD

Cooling small areas of brain tissue can protect a patient’s speech centers during neurosurgery, according to the results of a study published in the journal Neuron. The work was conducted by University of Iowa neurosurgeons and researchers at New York University. 

Participants in the study were patients who were undergoing brain surgery. Patients received local anesthesia at the beginning of their operations, which enabled them to remain awake and able to speak. The research team then used a combination of the cooling technique and verbal checks to pinpoint speech centers.

Cooling was achieved by placing miniature devices on patients’ brains. These devices, placed by University of Iowa neurosurgeons, cooled small areas of tissue that were roughly the size of a quarter. The tissue was cooled by as much as 10 degrees Celsius and altered the brain function in those spots.

The changed brain function resulted in slowed and blurred speech, indicated by the patients’ ability to recite the days of the week and other simple lists. Speech function returned in all patients after the cooled tissue had warmed naturally.

While the technique was used in this study to protect areas of the brain, the researchers say further work on the technique could make it suitable for the development of therapies for people who have lost their ability to speak through sickness or injury.

The research team included University of Iowa neurosurgeons Hiroyki Oya, MD, Matthew Howard, MD, and Jeremy Greenlee, MD.

Monday, February 17, 2020