At a certain level of talent, the brains of the elite are just more sensitive, more finely tuned, than yours and mine. Professional athletes notice different things about their surroundings than the average person does; artists often have a unique way of understanding colors and shapes; musicians can understand the various components of a song in a way that those of us with normal ears just don’t.
Which is why, if you’re a neuroscientist and Sting gives you a chance to study his brain, you jump on that offer.
Such was the case with Daniel Levitin, who recently co-authored a case study of the musician in the journal Neurocase. The background story: Sting, who had read Levitin’s book This Is Your Brain on Music, had a concert scheduled in Montreal, where Levitin teaches at McGill University. Sting — identified in the paper as “a 55-year old right-handed male, with normal hearing and no history of neurological disorders” — asked if he could come in for a tour of the lab; Levitin agreed and offered to give him a turn in the fMRI machine. (The pair ran into some trouble, Levitin recalls: The power went out during the lab tour, and an MRI takes over an hour to reboot. Ultimately, Sting agreed to skip his soundcheck in order to get the scan.)