James Bond villain placed drill in wrong area, neurosurgeon says

James Bond’s villain in Spectre, the latest film in the famous 007 spy series, could use a lesson in neuroanatomy, a Toronto neurosurgeon says.

Drill 'likely would have triggered a stroke or massive hemorrhage,' says Dr. Michael Cusimano

Daniel Craig appears in a scene from the James Bond film Spectre. A neuroanatomy blunder in the film slightly marred the experience for a Toronto neurosurgeon. (Susie Allnutt/EON Productions via AP)

James Bond's villain in the latest 007 film, Spectre, could use a lesson in neuroanatomy, a Toronto neurosurgeon says.

In a scene recorded in a Morroccan desert, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played by Christoph Waltz, tortures Bond using restraints and a head clamp fused with a robotic drill. The goal is to inflict pain and erase 007's memory bank of faces.

But Blofeld didn't have his brain anatomy down and could have likely killed Daniel Craig's character instead, Dr. Michael Cusimano of St. Michael's Hospital, says in a letter published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Aiming to erase Bond's memory of faces, the villain correctly intends to drill into the lateral fusiform gyrus, an area of the brain responsible for recognizing faces, Cusimano said. But in practice, the drill was placed in the wrong area, aiming for the neck instead of the brain. 

"Whereas the drill should have been aimed just in front of 007's ear, it was directed below the mastoid process under and behind his left ear," Cusimano wrote.

It likely would have triggered a stroke or massive  hemorrhage, he said. 

Blunder marred enjoyment

In a draft of the letter, Cusimano said he was "spellbound" watching the film in a packed theatre, but his enjoyment was somewhat marred by the blunder.

"I laughed," he recalled in an interview. "I think people around me kind of looked at me and were wondering why I was laughing because it's a pretty tense part of the movie."

Cusimano,a professor of neurosurgery, education and public health, said he's seen all the Bond films and says he enjoys the music, locations and special effects. 

Cusimano added it's theoretically possible to impair facial recognition by targeting the lateral fusiform gyrus. He noted there are documented cases of injury, such as strokes, leading to brain conditions that cause "face blindness," or prosopagnosia.

The neurosurgeon said he would happily offer his neurosurgery expertise to Hollywood filmmakers next time, and hopes people get a laugh out of the letter.

Spectre broke box office records in November 2015.


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