Certain types of brain surgery require the patient to stay awake as surgeons probe through their grey matter. It sounds weird, but doctors need real-time patient feedback to know that they’re not messing with essential areas of the brain.
A common way to provide this feedback is to have the patient either play a musical instrument or sing. This is exactly what doctors had 19-year-old Kira Iaconetti do as she underwent a procedure to alleviate her epilepsy.
Her condition was unusual in that seizures were triggered whenever she listened to or tried to perform music, something known as musicogenic epilepsy. Not good for someone who has performed musical theatre since she was 6 and has her dreams set on being a musician.
At first, the situation seemed controllable with each episode lasting less than two minutes. Although she was able to continue afterward, she had no energy and would stutter and slur her way through the music. Then the seizures started coming more frequently.
After visiting a neurologist who gave her an MRI, it was discovered that she had a calcified mass about the size of a marble in the right temporal lobe of her brain. It was pressing up against her auditory cortex, a part of the brain that processes things like music.
A craniotomy was called for. She was given anesthesia but kept away so doctors could actually see which part of her brain was in use when she sang. When asked to chose a song, she went with Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” for two reasons: (1) It reminded of her of Hawaii where she was born; and (2) the line “I can’t control my brain.”
It worked. Within 48 hours, she was sitting up in bed, singing and playing the guitar.
Weezer heard about Kira’s ordeal and tweeted this.
— weezer (@Weezer) November 18, 2018
Look for Kira to appear with Weezer at some point in 2019.