Windmills of the mind: Sting’s brain scanned for music study

Functional, structural scans were conducted at McGill University


Ians August 21, 2016
Sting is working on his upcoming album 57th & 9th. PHOTO: FILE

LOS ANGELES: Musician Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner – known professionally by his stage name Sting – has willingly undergone a series of brain scans to help a new research determine how he analyses music.

The 64-year-old Desert Rose singer met with cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin in Montreal recently, where the doctor mapped out how Sting’s brain organises music. “The state-of-the-art techniques really allowed us to make maps of how Sting’s brain organises music,” said Levitin. “That’s important because, at the heart of great musicianship, is the ability to manipulate in one’s mind, the rich representation of the desired soundscape.”

Sting reached out to Levitin after becoming a fan of the doctor’s book, This Is Your Brain on Music. Both functional and structural scans were conducted in one session at the brain imaging unit of McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute. The researchers conducted a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) scan, which measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.

Levitin and his colleague Scott Grafton, have published their findings in the journal Neurocase. “At the heart of these methods is the ability to test if patterns of brain activity are more alike for two similar styles of music, compared to different styles. This approach has never before been considered in brain imaging experiments of music,” Grafton said. The pair is hoping to do similar scans on athletes, writers and painters.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd,  2016.

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