Scientists Scan Sting’s Brain To Investigate Musical Reactions


Sting had his brain scanned by a specialist scientist to explore his musical reactions.

The musician met with cognitive psychologist, Dan Levitin, at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute.

He had been an avid fan of Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain On Music, so when he went to visit the scientist’s laboratory, he was more than happy to have his brain examined.

Speaking of the occasion, Levitin said, “The state of the art techniques really allowed us to make maps of how Sting’s brain organises music”. He, alongside colleague Scott Grafton, analyzed fMRI images to investigate how Sting consumes music.

The activity of Stings brain allowed the pair to gather findings on which songs the musician found similar and dissimilar. They made some unusual findings, Levitin said, “Sting’s brain pointed us to several connections between pieces of music that I know well, but had never seen as related before”.

Stings reactions found similarities in Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’ and the Beatles’ ‘Girl’, while he also considered his own ‘Moon Over Bourbon Street’ to be similar to Booker T. and the MG’s ‘Green Onions’. These reactions were unexpected as the usual brain wouldn’t pick up the songs similar tempos, melodies and keys.

Their report concluded by saying, “The act of composing, and even of imagining elements of the composed piece separately, such as melody and rhythm, activated a similar cluster of brain regions, and were distinct from prose and visual art”.

The scientists hope the same scans can be used to investigate how athletes activate their bodies, understand how writers develop characters and explore how artists develop their design.


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