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J Neurosurg. 2003 Sep;99(3):604-8.

A device for cooling localized regions of human cerebral cortex. Technical note.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.


Neurosurgeons use invasive mapping methods during surgery to understand the functional neuroanatomy of patients. Electrical stimulation methods are used routinely for the temporary disruption of focal regions of cerebral cortex so that the surgeon may infer the functional role of the brain site being stimulated. Although it is an efficient and useful method, modes of electrical stimulation mapping have significant limitations. Neuroscientists use focal cooling to effect a more controlled disruption of cortical functions in experimental animals, and in this report, the authors describe their experience using a device to achieve this same objective in patients undergoing neurosurgery. The cooling probe consists of a stainless steel chamber with thermocouples and electroencephalography (EEG) recording contacts. Active cooling is achieved by infusing chilled saline into the chamber when the cooling probe is positioned on the pial surface. Experiments were performed in 18 patients. Temperature gradient measurements indicate that the entire thickness of gray matter under the probe is cooled to temperatures that disrupt local synaptic activity. Statistically significant changes in spontaneous and stimulus-evoked EEG activity were consistently observed during cooling, providing clear evidence of reversible disruption of physiological functions. Preliminary findings during functional mapping of the Broca area demonstrated qualitative differences between the temporary neurological deficits induced by cooling and those caused by electrical stimulation. These findings indicate the safety and utility of the cooling probe as a neurosurgical research tool. Additional rigorously designed studies should be undertaken to correlate the effects of cooling, electrical stimulation, and focal lesioning.

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