Brain Mapping

The brain is the most complicated organ in our body. Every area of the brain has a specific function. In the past, doctors had a rough map of the brain, but not the detail needed to ensure they could avoid critical areas in surgery. Since each person's brain is unique, each person's brain map varies.

The sheer complexity of the brain — combined with the fact that each person's brain map varies — has challenged neurosurgeons for years.

Groundbreaking research pioneered at UCSF has resulted in an advanced brain mapping technique that enables doctors to remove as much of a brain tumor as possible, while minimizing the impact on crucial areas of the brain that control movement, speech and the senses.

3-D Imaging

By using 3-dimensional imaging technology while operating on the brain, surgeons can target the dissection to the smallest degree. The goal is to remove all or most of the tumor or other tissue without causing any permanent neurological injury. The procedure also is used to pinpoint and remove brain tissue that causes severe seizures.

During surgery, the patient is awake for a portion of the procedure to help surgeons identify the functional areas of the brain near the tumor or near tissue causing seizures. This allows doctors to map out a path to a successful surgery while minimizing impact on healthy, vital tissue.

The patient is allowed to return to consciousness after the brain has been exposed and then interacts with the team as they stimulate areas of the brain near the tumor.

The neurosurgeon may stimulate the brain where it controls feelings in the mouth and gums, causing the patient to experience tingling or tongue twitching. Language testing is also performed.

Once the areas of the brain have been identified, the patient is put back under general anesthesia and the surgery is completed.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Pediatric Epilepsy Center of Excellence
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2437
Fax: (415) 353-2400

Neurosurgery Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7500
Fax: (415) 353-2889

Pediatric Brain Tumor Center
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2986
Fax: (415) 353-2657

Condition Information