Arvind Mohan Kumar, who has been suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy for 11 years, was instructed to remain alert through singing, listening and identifying melodies in the opera theatre at Nimhans in Bangalore, so that surgeons could remove a focal point of seizures in his brain without damaging the brain areas related to his musical abilities, Bangalore Mirror, reported.
“We decided to operate under local anesthesia which would mean he would be awake during the operation. A question mark incision was made on his head close to the right ear and it penetrated four to five layers. He was made to listen to songs and identify the pitch, melodies and also sing while the surgical procedure was taking place. The parts that were active during musical activity were preserved and the focal point of the seizure was removed. The incision was then stitched back,” Dr Malla Bhaskhar Rao, professor and head of the department of neurosurgery at Nimhans, told the newspaper.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder and a person suffering from it is at high risk of experiencing frequent seizures. Arvind, hailing from Kerala, started taking music lessons at the age of five. At the same time, he had frequently been experiencing seizures. Though various medications helped manage the situation temporarily, Mohan Kumar, the boy’s father, `who is running a musical institution at Sharjah, wanted a permanent solution.
Doctors at Nimhans offered to treat the boy through brain surgery. But they found it challenging to perform the surgery without affecting the boy’s musical cognition, as both of them were inter-related.
For identifying the brain area related to music abilities, doctors conducted a series of tests, including a “pen-and paper test” and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique. Doctors realized that both sides of the brain played an equal and important place while delivering music.
The boy underwent brain surgery on September 25. Though the surgery cured him from the deadly condition while preserving his musical talents, his memories about the surgery still remain fresh.
He described how the doctors drilled into his head for almost 20 minutes. “Every now and then when the pain would become unbearable, I would tell the doctor and he would stop the process for five minutes before resuming again,” he said.