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What is a microelectrode recording?

Sometimes surgeons identify brain structures by using a technique known as microelectrode recording.

An electrode, at the end of very fine wire, is passed through various areas of the brain, where it records electrical patterns from surrounding brain structures.

The electrical patterns then can be converted to sound, which allows surgeons to listen to the brain activity surrounding the electrode. Each brain structure has a unique pattern of electrical activity. An experienced neurosurgeon is able to distinguish these structures by listening to these patterns.

The best way for a surgeon to check whether the electrode is properly located is to switch on the device and watch its effects on the patient's symptoms. Because of this, the patient is normally kept awake for the electrode implantation portion of the surgery. Since the brain itself has no pain receptors, the patient will not experience pain. Local anesthesia is used to numb the place where a small hole is made in the skull.

The patient will also must discontinue the use of all medications prior to the surgery. That is required to enable the surgeon to observe just the effects of the electrical stimulation on the disease symptoms.

Once the electrode is in place, the pulse generator is implanted in the patient's body where there's more room, which is generally within the patient's chest. Since the patient is not required to be awake for this portion of the surgery, he or she is normally placed under general anesthesia.

The surgery also involves tunneling a wire under the skin, which runs from the pulse generator to the electrode in the brain.

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