TODAY

TODAY   |  July 10, 2013

Man has brain surgery while awake, strumming guitar

Brad Carter, an actor and guitarist in Los Angeles, underwent brain surgery to fix benign tremors after medications failed to cure them. He was awake for six hours of the surgery, playing his guitar to help doctors implant a wire inside his head. Chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman comments.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a one of a kind medical procedure . a patient undergoing brain surgery at ucla hospital guiding his doctors while playing his guitar. dr. nancy snyderman is back with details. this is an incredible story.

>> it sounds out of passion, music. performing is in brad carter 's blood. an actor in los angeles he landed guest starring roles in some of the most popular television shows. however, his true passion has always been music, playing the guitar to be exact.

>> i'm a guitarist since 1988 . music is my first love. i'm an actor for a living but i always have music to turn to. it's a part of your soul.

>> reporter: but seven years ago brad's hands started to shake and overtime he stopped taking the stage.

>> you watch all your skills and who you are as a person sort of, they're vanishing in front of your eyes. it's hard to watch that happen. and you can't do anything about it.

>> reporter: doctors diagnosed him with benign essential tremor and when medications failed to stop the shaking brad decided to undergo a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation .

>> we put a pacemaker in the brain and with the stimulation we help it restore a more moral pattern of activity.

>> i'm going to show you my guitar. it's handmade just for me.

>> reporter: brad was awake as doctors implanted a wire inside his head and asked him to play his guitar, observing when the tremors weakened.

>> the slower i play, like i'm trying to play a balance lod. the faster i play.

>> reporter: he layaway for the six and seven hours of surgery working with the doctors. weeks after the procedure with his tremor reduced, brad is back playing the guitar.

>> what this offers is hope that i didn't have before, and, you know, there's a ways to go. there's aways to go. months down the road i'll be able to record and share my music.

>> reporter: the cause unknown. the prognosis less shaking and a steadier hand to play the music he loves. he has returned to acting and has a role in an hbo series coming up next year.

>> are there other afflictions where it might be helpful.

>> it's been going on for years in parkinsons and seizure disorders . the brain doesn't have pain fibers so it's painless but they want you awake to see improvement and monitor it in real time and it reduces a chance of having a stroke during the