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App developed by UWM students being tested in hospitals nationwide

A Milwaukee-based invention is changing the way doctors perform brain surgeries nationwide.

The app, developed through a collaboration between students at UWM and a doctor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, monitors brain activity during surgery. 

The tablet-based tool is called NeuroMapper, and it's already being used in dozens of hospitals nationwide.

"We're able to test a lot more now, than we were able to before," says Neuropsychologist David Sabsevitz.

Dr. Sabsevitz came up with the idea after realizing the tools he was using for surgery were simply out-dated.

During brain surgery, it's not uncommon to wake the patient up, and test different portions of their brain throughout the surgery. 

In the past, this was done by simply holding up flashcards with pictures or puzzles on them. 

"We were really not taking advantage of technology," says Dr. Sabsevitz. "The level of sophistication to how we were testing was pretty basic." 

Dr. Sabsevitz called the App Brewery at UWM, and asked if they'd help develop a program to use in the operating room. 

"I don't think those guys knew anything about brain surgery when we started this project," he jokes. 

"I had a lot of apprehension," says Dustin Hahn. 

Hahn is the Project Manager for the Mobile Innovation Lab, and oversaw the project. 

"We started breaking it down into smaller parts, and when we put all those parts together we realized that it was very do-able," he says. 

The App works by asking patients a series of "baseline" questions before the surgery begins. 

Then, doctors point the tablet screen at the patient, and a built-in microphone records their responses.

If patients miss a question they normally would answer correctly, doctors know that portion of the brain is being impacted. 

"We want to get all of the tumor out, but minimize the risk for having cognitive or other types of functional deficits," says Dr. Sabsevitz. "This helps define where to stop." 

The app is attracting a lot of attention not only for its usefulness in surgery, but also for its potential in medical research outside the operating room. Sabsevitz is in the process of forming a consortium focused on that research use.

The app is part of an on-going collaboration between UWM and the MCW, with 17 apps now completed. 

NeuroMapper is being tested in roughly 35 hospitals across the country. 


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