He was playing saxophone while doctors were removing a tumor from his brain

It was strange because I was lying on the side and this is not a good place to play the saxophone (…) And my skull was also open, “says 27-year-old Dan Fabbio, describing what happened during the surgery to remove tumor from his brain.

This incident occurred 13 months ago, but it has become widely known just now, due to a relevant publication in the journal Current Biology. As a fact, it marks another success story from the surgical team of the Translational Brain Mapping department at Rochester University, designed to implement personalized practices in brain surgery.

“Tumor removal from the brain can have serious consequences depending on its location. Everyone’s brain is organized in the same way, but there is also variability, that is, what makes each patient different and we want to keep it, “says Professor Brad Mahon, Ph.D., who helped develop the protocol mapping.
Since 2011, this program has been used for the mapping of surgical procedures for patients with brain tumors, who are mathematicians, accountants, lawyers, craftsmen, and others. Fabbio was the first musician.

He was diagnosed with a tumor in the brain at the age of 25 after dizziness and hallucinations. The tumor was in an area associated with musical treatment, something particularly worrying about a young man whose passion and career is music.

Fabbio’s doctors, including the head of neurosurgeon Webster Pilcher, took 6 months to study and organize how they would do Fabbio’s intervention.

One of the tests I did to Fabbio to map his brain was to listen to piano melodies and to play them singing while he was taking magnetic resonance imaging at that time. From these tests and tomography, doctors produced a three-dimensional map of Fabbio’s brain. They identified vital areas for music and language processing and thus “built” step by step the exact moves they made to Fabbio’s surgery in July 2016.