Cameron Piron

For taking the guesswork out of brain surgery.

Cameron Piron
Brain Game: A DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) rendering by Synaptive, which highlights Cameron Piron’s brain fibers.

Cameron Piron, a magnetic resonance physicist, is reinventing the MRI to make brain surgery and diagnosis more accurate. One of his company’s first technologies, Bright Matter Planning, allows doctors to see all of the nerve pathways in a person’s brain in a multicolored, 3-D, interactive image (as opposed to the typical flat imaging that shows only certain sections at a time). Here are three reasons Piron’s new method is a breakthrough for both patients and surgeons:


1. Simplicity

The challenge with brain surgery, says Piron, “is that a huge amount of data”–including water movement–“needs to be compiled.” Bright Matter Planning’s algorithms pair down the tens of billions of connections in our brains to show millions. “We take that information and track it and present it in a manner that is not overwhelming.”

2. Clarity

If doctors can see specific fiber bundles, they can plan safer surgeries, taking the least damaging route to a tumor, for example, instead of merely the shortest one.

3. Efficiency

It takes Bright Matter Planning just 15 minutes to create a readable, interactive image of a patient’s brain. Dozens of hospitals and medical centers have adopted the technology since it launched late last year.


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

I think it really comes from having your eyes and your ears open and just constantly being open to new things, but also how different technologies might be able to be applied in our specific space. I spend a lot of time looking at technology outside of our focal field, like optics from defense industry and defense manufacturing. I’m even inspired by how innovation pops up in different industries and has a significant impact in a tight field of time.

I’m very interested in art and art history, and the whole impact of technology on the impressionists. They came up with a simple thing: an aluminum tube to be able to put paint in, and it let them go out into the field and be mobile and not sit in the studio. To go out there and paint the environment as they saw it really changes things over a dramatic period of time. We see that opportunity in neuro for sure. There hasn’t been technology brought into that space. We’re hoping to be the ones to bring it and bring about a renaissance.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Email, unfortunately. Email, coffee, walk. Go for a good walk in the neighborhood. That’s my refresh for that day. I live in the downtown core of Toronto. There’s a little loop I like to do. It goes between the Royal Conservatory of Music, the ROM [Royal Ontario Museum), and the University. It’s hard not to get inspired and pumped up for the day walking through there.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

I think the degree of multitasking is something that continues to surprise me about the job. You need to be able to quickly switch context. I think it’s one thing talking to entrepreneurs that people are always shocked by: that ability to switch context 100 times a day and still remain very deep and detailed in a specific area.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

I like following you guys (@FastCompany); I’m a new follower. But Elon Musk is a huge inspiration for me. There hasn’t been a force in technology like him–a guy who reinvents the auto industry, changes the approach to space, and then his idea of the hyperloop and actually going out and building that now. I find that hugely inspirational. If he can do that, there’s no excuse.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

I do like studying tangential areas; art history is a big one. Whenever I go to a new city I love to take time and hit the art galleries and art exhibits. That is something that is so different than surgery, it always hits the reset button and rejuvenates.


About the author

Rebecca Greenfield is a former Fast Company staff writer. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Wire, where she focused on technology news