Man Plays Deftones and System of a Down Guitar Riffs While Undergoing Brain Surgery: Watch

Avid guitarist Christian Nolen was recently diagnosed with a tumor on the right frontal lobe of his brain, which was discovered after he began to lose the dexterity to play the guitar.

Ten days after the tumor was discovered, Nolen was booked to undergo surgery at a South Florida hospital, and the surgeons had a remarkable request: Could Nolen remain awake and play the guitar during the operation?

The awake surgery, also known as an awake craniotomy, would confirm the diagnosis and the type of tumor, but it would also involve surgeons removing as much of the tumor as possible in the process. This would require real-time feedback from Nolen’s cognitive functions.

“When a tumor is involving or near a critical part of the brain — something that controls the ability to speak or understand language or move — we want to do the surgery awake to continually monitor the patient, so you know if you start to violate normal brain functions,” Ricardo Komotar, M.D., director of the brain tumor program at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine told Fox News Digital.


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At first, Nolen was shocked at the request to play guitar while under the knife.

“I’d only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies,” he told Fox News Digital. “I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldn’t pass up — especially with my motor skills being on the line.”

Nolen was put to sleep via anesthesia for the beginning of the procedure, but he was awakened for the delicate two-hour portion of the surgery and handed a guitar once he was oriented to his surroundings. As he played songs that he’d been practicing — riffs by Deftones and System of a Down — doctors monitored his hand function as they went about the procedure.

“As we were finishing the case at the very back of the tumor, we noticed that his hand function started to decline,” said Komotar. “The tumor was touching and interfacing with the part of the brain that controls hand movement. Fortunately, we were able to remove the entire tumor and not injure his hand.”


While an awake craniotomy involving a patient playing guitar is unprecedented, Komotar said he and his team perform awake procedures several times a week.

“Most patients are intrigued by the process,” he said. “We tell them that they’re going to be able to speak and move their hands or limbs so we can constantly examine them.”

Below you can watch a news report on Nolen’s incredible procedure via Florida’s WSVN.

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