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Can surgeons really do brain surgery while you are still conscious?

Can surgeons really do brain surgery while you are still conscious?
Nicola from Cambridgeshire (Aged 5-14)

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One Response

  1. Hi Nicola, they certainly can, and it doesn’t hurt! Getting to your brain, through the scalp and skull would be painfull, but a local anaesthetic can be used for that.

    Pain is signalled by special nerve cells. There are lots in your skin, so it hurts if you cut, bruise or burn yourself, and there are some inside – so you can have tummy-ache – but there are none in the brain.

    Oddly, the brain is full of nerve cells, but not the pain sort – they are involved in making sense of the information coming in – what you are seeing, listening to etc. If these cells are stimulated, instead of feeling pain you have the experience that would have occurred if outside information had done the stimulating. For example, if the surgeon stimulates a particular area you may start to hear a tune. It is important for the surgeon to do this stimulation, because if he or she is performing surgery they want to check that a bit they are about to cut is not essential for you to have an experience or carry out an action. That is why you must be conscious, so that you can say what it feels like.

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