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Making Music Again

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By Elliot Park '17

Published Jul 29, 2013 10:56 AM


Since UCLA surgeons treated guitarist Brad Carter’s hand tremors, he’s back to doing what he loves.

art

Hand tremors are a challenge for anyone, but especially someone who pursues his passions with his hands. Yet, in the summer of 2006, guitarist, painter and actor Brad Carter's hands began to shake uncontrollably. He was eventually diagnosed with a neurological disease called benign essential tremor.

“It takes from you, little by little, who you are,” he says of the condition. “It steals who you are.”

Early treatment he received proved ineffective. But in researching his options, Carter learned about deep brain stimulation treatment offered at UCLA. He consulted Dr. Nader Pouratian, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and decided to undergo the treatment at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"Once I [learned] that [deep brain stimulation] was an option, it was an easy decision,” he says. "For me, to not be able to play guitar is torturous."

UCLA patient plays guitar after brain surgery

Brad Carter returns to UCLA to discuss his experience with benign essential tremor and as a patient at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

In deep brain stimulation, doctors place a lead (a thin, insulated wire), a neurostimulator and an extension (a thin, insulated wire linking the lead to the neurostimulator) under the patient’s skin. Then they use the neurotransmitter to block electrical impulses that cause tremors.

On May 23, Carter underwent the first of two surgeries and played his guitar during the operation. "For him, playing guitar is very important, and so we thought bringing the guitar into the operating room would be a unique opportunity to show [the procedure] and see if we’d be able to affect that function and help him play the guitar better," Pouratian explains.

The operation was live-Tweeted, and videos of Carter in the operating room quickly surfaced online. One that shows him playing a small, box-shaped guitar struck a chord with millions of viewers.

The second surgery took place on June 11, and Carter continues to see Dr. Pouratian for check-ups. On July 10, he returned to campus for a press conference with Pouratian. He shared his experience as a patient at UCLA and played two original songs on the guitar.

With the operations behind him and his recovery steady for now, Carter plans to create an original album.

"There's nothing like losing a skill that you were really good at to make you want to have that skill back," Carter says. "I can’t wait to be creative again and I can’t wait to play guitar again. I’m very excited to record an album as this gets better."

A longer version of this story appears at the UCLA Newsroom at http://ucla.in/12ni61e.

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