The fMRI of Sting must have been of great interest to Dr. Daniel Levitin, musician turned neuroscientist. In a documentary "The Musical Brain" on January 31, Levitin and others explore the brain on music, looking at how the brain shapes music and how music shapes the brain. For this documentary, Sting underwent an fMRI and viewers of the show will see how music affects his brain.
Dr. Levitin designed four MRI tests for Sting. From "The king of 'brain'" (St. Catharines Standard):
In the first test, Levitin asked Sting to imagine a favourite melody. Even though there was no music playing, his toes moved to some inaudible beat.
Says [documentary writer and director Christina] Pochmursky: "We respond to imagined music the same way as we respond to music we hear."
The second test involved listening to different genres of music. Tango. Jazz. Classical. Even Muzak. Levitin mapped the response of Sting's brain.
Seems the only genre that prompted a different brain reaction was Muzak. It was, quite simply, too boring for his brain.
"The brain is like a kitten," says Pochmursky. "It's always curious. It always wants something it's never seen before. Then it perks right up."
In the final test, Levitin asked Sting to compose a melody he's never thought of before. Inside the MRI, Sting hums the beginnings of a song as his brain activity is recorded.
Unfortunately it looks as if you will not be able to see this documentary unless you are in Canada. Know of any way those of us outside Canada can view it? I would be happy to be wrong.
Note (added January 27, 2009, 8:30 AM Mountain): Good news! Received this from Dr. Levitin this morning:
The documentary debuts in Canada this Saturday, but broadcast in the rest of the world has been sold. You'll be able to see it in Europe on National Geographic television and in the US on PBS, both before summer. It should also be available for sale on DVD eventually.
Image credit: BBC.