AUG 08, 2017 4:38 AM PDT

Movies, Medicine and Models

The expression, "It's not brain surgery!" is meant to emphasize that something isn't as complicated as one might think. Brain surgery, of course, is very complex. The brain has been shown to be quite resilient in some ways, surviving mental illness, neurodegenerative disease, and traumatic injury, but when it comes to surgery? It's incredibly delicate. From tiny blood vessels, vulnerable tissue and parts that can only be seen via molecular visualization, high-tech microscopy and advanced scanning methods, the brain is an area that only highly trained surgeons will attempt to navigate.

So how do these surgeons get good at their craft? There's cadaver work, as in any surgical specialty, along with medical school, residency and years of training, but recently a good part of that training has come not from prestigious medical schools, but from Hollywood. Some creative geniuses that work on special effects for television shows, movies, and medical documentaries have joined with physicians and others at Boston Children's Hospital, to create and provide realistic anatomical models of brains and bodies so that doctors can practice their techniques safely. As if working on the brain were not hard enough, working on pediatric patients, with smaller features and more delicate organs is even more of a challenge.

The special effects firm Fractured FX, which won an Emmy for their work on American Horror Story-Freak Show, partnered with SIMPeds, at Boston Children's Hospital to create models that felt real, were to scale, and even pulsated as an actual patient would. SIMPeds is the in-house engineering and training program at Boston Children's and its Director, Dr. Peter Weinstock, MD, Ph.D., came up with the idea to work with Fractured FX after seeing the company's creations for the Cinemax series The Knick, about medicine and surgery in the 1900's. Weinstock and Fractured FX's CEO Justin Raleigh began talking about working together in 2014, the partnership was announced in 2015, and Weinstock recently gave a TEDtalk about the collaboration complete with videos and pictures of the models created over the last two years by the special effects professionals.

Weinstock, in a press release on the project, stated, "Getting the look and feel right is very important, particularly to surgeons and proceduralists. To make simulations effective, you want to promote suspension of disbelief, to create an environment where everyone is believing that they're working on a real child. Other simulators exist but their aesthetics and anatomy are fairly rudimentary, making it hard to keep people's heads in the game. We're excited to have these new simulators change that." Raleigh added, "A lot of us had aspirations in medicine, and have collaborated with prosthesiologists to help improve prosthetics artistically. We wanted to take our skills in special effects to try and help people. We've had to come up with new techniques to develop the elements you'd see in surgery, something we never had to do for film."

The TED talk Weinstock gave on the project can be seen here. The video below, a shorter clip, talks about the project, the partnership and what it could mean for neurosurgical education. Check it out.

Sources: Boston Children's Hospital, Fractured FX, TED Talk 

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 23, 2019
Technology
NOV 23, 2019
An app that can help better monitor Parkinson's Disease
A study published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease describes how an app, called ‘SleepFit’, could be used as a useful tool in monitori...
DEC 21, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 21, 2019
Magic Mushrooms Pass First Clinical Trial Against Depression
With the efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac increasingly coming under question, the search for new pharmaceutical treatment...
DEC 20, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 20, 2019
Drug Repurposing May Provide Hope for Deadly Childhood Seizure Disorder
The life-threatening and treatment-resistant seizure disorder among children known as the ‘Dravet Syndrome’ may soon have new safe and effectiv...
JAN 06, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 06, 2020
Online Therapy Treats Depression in Heart Disease Patients
People suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD) often suffer from depression too- something that can lead to a vicious cycle in which CVD can be negativ...
FEB 10, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 10, 2020
Lighting a Path to an Alzheimer's Disease Treatment
Alzheimer's impacts millions of people around the world; globally, it is thought to cost $605 billion a year, and there is still no way to treat it....
FEB 10, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 10, 2020
Speaking "Parentese" to Baby Boosts Language Development
Speaking “parentese” with your baby, also known as “baby talk”, has been shown to enhance children’s linguistic abilities as...
Loading Comments...