NYSCF Investigator Chills Brains to Understand Language
NYSCF-Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Michael A. Long, NYU, cooled areas of the brain associated with speech to see the effects on patients. Previously, neuroscientists have relied on electrically stimulating brain regions to understand their functions and ensure that no critical parts of the brain are excised during surgeries to remove tumors and other operations. During these procedures patients remain awake so that doctors can assess the importance of different brain areas. However, stimulating the brain with electricity can trigger epileptic seizures. Dr. Long and his group developed a method to cool brain areas, rather than use electricity, to understand the critical nature of different brain areas and their connection to speech. The resulting study, published in Neuron, examines areas in the brain linked to speech using this method to disrupt speaking in patients undergoing surgical operations. The research shows that areas of the brain that control speech are positioned closely together, highly localized. Dr. Long also elucidates the function of brain structures, specifically identifying structures in the brain that control muscle movement of the tongue and lips and parts that control the speed of these muscle movements. Dr. Long hopes that this and downstream research will help the medical community develop more affective therapies to help patients who have lost the ability to speak.