If you’ve ever found yourself complaining that much of what’s on television these days isn’t exactly brain surgery, you might want to check out a new special on National Geographic Channel that literally is.
“Brain Surgery Live With Mental Floss,” airing live in Eastern and Central time zones on Sunday (Oct. 25), brings viewers into the cutting-edge surgical theater at Cleveland’s UH Case Medical Center to watch an actual procedure. Bryant Gumbel is the host of the two-hour special that’s creatively guided by Mental Floss magazine, and neurosurgeon Dr. Rahul Jandial will provide expert commentary.
The surgery being performed is known as Deep Brain Stimulation surgery — or DBS — a delicate though low-risk procedure used to treat essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. Here, an incision is made in the skull and the patient, who is fully awake and able to speak throughout, helps guide the surgeons to the affected area where electrodes are then implanted. A battery of tests then determine whether they’ve pinpointed the problem area.
“[Neurosurgeons] use this surgery almost like a [what] pacemaker does for the heart, to try to adjust the brain to correct whatever the physical ailment is,” explains David George, executive producer and president of Leftfield Pictures, which produced the special, to Zap2it. “Some people, from what I understand, they can show very significant improvement in some of these physical ailments if they can find the part of the brain (that is afflicted).”
Along the way, viewers will see exactly what the neurosurgical team sees — live images of the brain — and they’ll get lessons on the brain and how it functions, the latest technologies used in cranial surgery and how virtual reality is changing medicine. They’ll also get a background of the patient, who at this writing had not yet been identified.
“My hope is that people walk away with a deeper fascination and education on the brain, understanding how it works” George says. “And really [it’s] the greatest computer ever invented and there is such little known about it. I think if people can walk away with a deeper understanding of how the brain works, no matter if they watch for five minutes or they watch for the two hours, I think that really is the goal of everybody involved – really, really understanding how complex [the brain is] and how far we’ve come with understanding the brain and how far we have to go.”