Barbara Duck informed us about a new development, NeuroTouch, that will hopefully lead to a new era in neurosurgery.

NeuroTouch, the prototype simulator developed by Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) and several other research groups, gives surgeons a dry run in virtual reality before entering the operating room, potentially reducing mistakes.

First, patient data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is rendered into a 3-D, high-resolution model of an individual’s brain. After the model is loaded into the system, doctors can touch and manipulate tumors and other virtual objects on screens in real time using a physical instrument resembling a scalpel. The instrument has six degrees of freedom and re-creates the force-feedback of the real tool and the varying resistance of tissue in brain regions with differing toughness. Meanwhile, photo-realistic on-screen imagery shows the simulated surgery, including bleeding and pulsing gray matter.