Brain surgery

Brain surgery on an unanesthetized patient equipped with a virtual reality headset. Angers University Hospital has performed an unprecedented operation, with promising results. New evidence for the potential of augmented and virtual reality techniques, with the Pays de la Loire at the cutting edge of the sector.

Neurosurgical procedures require considerable dexterity. Some brain tumors may be considered inoperable, because the treatment’s effects on essential functions would be worse than the disease itself. But neurosurgeons at Angers University Hospital have accumulated considerable experience with operations on fully-conscious patients. This enables electrodes to be used to stimulate areas of the brain, mapping vital functions such as motor skills and language—and so avoid damage to them.

The CERVO research programme has recently achieved a decisive world first: fitting a patient undergoing brain tumor surgery with an Oculus virtual reality headset during the operation. This allowed the surgeon to map the neural pathways associated with the optic nerves, which is impossible using electrodes alone. Immersed in a relaxingly hypnotic environment, the patient’s comfort was also improved. The patient, already vulnerable due to earlier loss of sight in one eye, benefited from the technique’s potential to remove the tumor without further harm to the visual pathways.

Virtual reality, technology of the future

These first practical results from the CERVO research project open up new prospects for surgery, and other applications are being evaluated. The success is also an illustration of the impressive potential of virtual reality in health care, industry, and business. The Pays de la Loire Region—host to the Clarté national research centre, the Laval Virtual business event and the Industrial Virtual Reality Centre—is once again confirmed as a sector pioneer.

The Pays de la Loire, outstanding territory for virtual reality

In the Pays de la Loire virtual reality is becoming reality. The region has several unique capabilities for the development of the sector: specialized training courses, an inter-regional competitivity cluster dedicated to its innovation (Images&réseaux), and several high tech facilities which are unique in France. The Technocampus Smart Factory, based in Saint-Nazaire, and the Clarté virtual reality technology platform in Laval offer Pays de la Loire companies the use of immersive facilities (3D, augmented reality, haptic interfaces) for their R&D projects.

Laval plays host each year to the sector’s reference business event Laval Virtual, an international meet-up of European virtual reality experts which has spun off a specialized university (Laval Virtual University). And EON Reality, a world leader in virtual reality has opened its first European hub dedicated to the development of educational games. A few months ago, the California-headquartered company chose Laval to launch Idome, a world-first interactive 4D video projection theatre which immerses 24 users simultaneously in a virtual universe.

World first in Angers: virtual reality comes to the neurosurgical operating theatre