Brain-Scanning T.S. Eliot
Brian Fung, writing on TheAtlantic.com about “cool things people have done inside MRI scanners,” tells us about an actress who did her thing inside the brain-imaging machine: “When actors assume a role, it’s often as if they’ve flipped a switch and become a completely different person. What does that switching action look like in the brain? To find out, British researchers had a female actor alternately recite lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem, ‘The Wasteland,’ and count sequences of numbers. When the actor was counting, her brain activity looked like any normal person’s. But when she switched into character, a part of her brain called the infraparietal sulcus lit up. That’s the part that handles spatial memory. ‘I think actors’ brains are like musicians’ brains,’ [the actress] said, ‘in that they’ve been trained to learn enormous sections of language—not by rote, but by matters of association’”: http://bit.ly/IKOOhp.
Fascinating, that actors’ embodiment of a character is literal–they remember words by situating themselves in space. Fung’s article also covers the amazing work of Charles Limb, who has directed musicians to improvise on a keyboard inside an MRI machine.