The Changemakers: Ahmed Raslan, M.D., FAANS  | OHSU Foundation

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Improving the precision of brain surgery 

By Josh Friesen
For Ignite Magazine
Photos by Jason Hill

The human brain is an enigma. 

Its sheer complexity is staggering. Billions of cells send and receive hundreds of billions of electrical and chemical signals every second. Every person’s thought, sensation and movement is the result of an elaborate process that scientists have only begun to understand. And yet, for all the brain’s intricacy, the flow of information connecting the physical and metaphysical worlds — or how we interpret and manipulate reality — is remarkably straightforward.   

This dichotomy between incredible complexity and beautiful simplicity captivates Ahmed Raslan, M.D., professor and interim chair of neurological surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of functional neurosurgery.  

“The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, but it’s also the most logical organ,” Raslan said. “There’s a logical flow of information from the brain down to body — the motor system. There’s another logical flow of information from the outside world to the brain — the sensory system. That logical conclusion and flow captured my attention.”  

Balancing his efforts as a surgeon and researcher, Raslan has spent his career at OHSU on the leading edge of science and discovery in two primary areas: cognitive decoding enabled by interface technology, and focused ultrasound. Raslan’s breakthroughs in interface technology give neurologists and neurosurgeons a clearer, higher-resolution picture inside the brain that reveals more about brain function, improves the precision of brain surgery and examines the processes behind memory, language and numbers cognition.  

“I like treating patients one at a time and forming relationships. However, being on the cutting edge of discovery and figuring out new ways to do things allows you to impact even more lives.”

Ahmed Raslan

Focused ultrasound is a new, minimally invasive way to treat brain disorders, such as involuntary tremors, by targeting specific injured locations on the brain with sound waves. OHSU is one of only five sites in the U.S. to offer the latest advancement — high-frequency focused ultrasound — which has been used to treat more than 130 patients at OHSU since 2022. 

Raslan enjoys the opportunity to impact patients in the operating room and indirectly through scientific innovation. At OHSU, he doesn’t have to choose one over the other.  

“I have a unique opportunity at OHSU that provides me access to patients and technology inside and outside the operating room,” Raslan said. “Before anything, I’m a surgeon and health care provider. I like treating patients one at a time and forming relationships. However, being on the cutting edge of discovery and figuring out new ways to do things allows you to impact even more lives. OHSU provides a unique combination that is very hard to replicate anywhere else.”