Fiddling During Brain Surgery

FRESNO, Calif.

When the condition attacked a world renowned musician, he feared his career was over. That's until one brain surgeon found a way to use his music to guide him through surgery.

Roger Frisch has played these notes for 50 years, but never for an audience like this.

Roger is a professional concertmaster.

"I can truthfully say I love it as much now as when I first started," Frisch told Ivanhoe.

Two years ago a tremor in his right hand shook his flawless tone.

"This might be the end of my career," Frisch said.

He has essential tremor. Sections of the brain that control movement send abnormal signals.

Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Kendall Lee and a team of engineers created a special violin for Frisch to play during surgery.

"So the bow of the violin had a wireless device so we could actually see the tremor," Kendall H. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Neurosurgeon Director, Mayo Neural Engineering Laboratory, explained.

They placed two electrodes in his brain, a process called deep brain stimulation.

The sensor on the violin sends info to a computer -- which told surgeons immediately if the stimulation works.

"When we inserted the second electrode we could see the tremor was gone by 95 percent," Dr. Lee added.

"It's night and day from before the surgery. During the surgery I could tell immediately," Frisch concluded. A musician in control of every note.

Deep brain stimulation is used for patients who don't respond to meds first. Besides essential tremor, it is being used to help people with epilepsy, OCD and eating disorders. In a three year study, the surgery stopped seizures in nearly 70 percent of epilepsy patients.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Melissa Medalie at

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.