Following a recent show in Montreal, Sting met with Daniel Levitin, a cognitive psychologist at McGill University to have fMRI images of his brain taken as part of an ongoing study of how the brain of a skilled musician analyzes and organizes music. In a paper outlining the study published on McGill’s website, Levitin explains that he and his partners have developed imaging-analysis techniques to provide insight into how gifted individuals find connections between seemingly disparate thoughts or sounds, in fields ranging from arts, to politics, to science. “These state-of-the-art techniques really allowed us to make maps of how Sting’s brain organizes music. That’s important because at the heart of great musicianship is the ability to manipulate in one’s mind rich representations of the desired soundscape.”The research came about as a result of a mutual admiration between Sting and the McGill psychologist. Years ago, Sting read Levitin’s book This Is Your Brain On Music, and asked to meet Levitin and take a tour of his facilities, as many musicians have done over the years. While there, Levitin asked if Sting would be interested in having his brain scanned, and the musician obliged.Both functional and structural scans were conducted in a single session at the brain imaging unit of McGill’s Montreal Neurological Institute on the hot afternoon of his July 5th concert with Peter Gabriel at the Bell Centre (part of their current Rock Paper Scissors Tour). A power outage knocked the entire campus off-line for several hours, threatening to cancel the experiment. Because it takes over an hour to reboot the fMRI machine, time grew short. Sting graciously agreed to skip his soundcheck in order to accurately complete the scan.Levitin then teamed up with Scott Grafton, a leading brain-scan expert at the University of California at Santa Barbara, to use two novel techniques to analyze the scans. The techniques showed which songs Sting found similar to one another and which ones he found dissimilar based not on tests or questionnaires, but on activations of brain regions. Says Grafton, “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.”According to Levitin, “Sting’s brain scan pointed us to several connections between pieces of music that I know well but had never seen as related before.” The most surprising neural connection was the similarity in brain activity between Piazzolla’s “Libertango”, a tango composition, and the Beatles‘ “Girl” off 1965’s Rubber Soul. While the songs differ greatly in sound and genre, both pieces are in minor keys and include similar melodic motifs. Another example of similar neurological responses to seemingly different songs was Sting’s own “Moon Over Bourbon Street” and Booker T. and the MG‘s “Green Onions”, both of which have the same 132 bpm tempo and a swinging rhythm. While more information is needed to draw any scientific conclusions, these tests provide insight into the connecting factors between different kinds of music in terms of how they are received and processed by the mind of a musician.[via McGill University]
The Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School recently welcomed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste José Manuel Ramos-Horta to the IGLP Honorary Council.As a member of the honorary council, Ramos-Horta will advise the IGLP, strengthen its ability to mentor young scholars, and join in discussions with doctoral and graduate students working in the fields of economic development, social justice and global political economy.Said HLS Professor and IGLP Faculty Director David Kennedy: “Ramos-Horta’s appointment is representative of the Institute’s strong commitment to engage leading public officials and policy practitioners thinking about global governance, social justice and economic policy in new ways. His expertise in the areas of diplomacy, democracy, human rights, mediation, and peace initiatives will enhance the institute’s research into the ways in which injustice can be reproduced and what can be done in response.”
I’m a big intangibles guy.Talent matters, but when it comes down to it, what separates the good and the great in sports – and in life for that matter – is that little extra something you can’t touch or see physically on the field or court of play.If you’re the kid who’s busting his or her butt in the weight room at 6 a.m. every day, whether you’re a student-athlete preparing for your respective sport or a student trying to stay fit amid a demanding academic schedule, you already know what I’m talking about.The desire to better yourself when nobody’s looking, the mindset to keep pushing on when it seems you can’t any further, putting in the extra time and effort required to improve – that’s what makes a person their greatest and truly the best they can be. And when nobody sees the actions that lead up to the end result, sometimes the lengthy and tough process it takes to reach such success can be lost in translation.When I got a chance to sit down for a lengthy interview this past April with Wisconsin Women’s Basketball Head Coach Bobbie Kelsey, she told me what makes a person competitive, and that special kind of person doesn’t come from coaching – although it can help guide that person in the right direction. And I agree.And I think that’s why teams under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin continue to have such success on and off the field. The kids he recruits are the kind every coach wants filling his roster.This season could have easily been a Titanic-esque disaster after Week 2. The loss to Oregon State, the firing of Mike Markuson and the questions at starting quarterback all but erased the Badgers’ giant preseason expectations.But still, the Badgers battled on.Then came the injury to Joel Stave against Michigan State that ended his promising season and a lackluster performance by the Wisconsin offensive line and Danny O’Brien.But still, the Badgers kept trucking ahead.Why? Look at the DNA of this program. The star in the backfield is a kid who was once No. 3 on the depth chart at running back his sophomore year until two injuries in a single game thrust him onto the field. A Heisman finalist season later and a return in 2012 with a body and destructive running style best compared to the Hulk, Montee Ball is the face of this Wisconsin team.And on top of that, his backup hardly played last season and during his prep career was buried in the depth chart as well. But now James White is regularly putting up 100-yard games for the Badgers.And what about the fifth-year quarterback who made the first start of his career Saturday?I’m not even sure anymore how many ACL injuries Phillips has endured in his career at Wisconsin, but the dedication and resilience he has shown after not playing football for the past two years to somehow find his way in the starting lineup shows the heart and character of a young man who could have easily given up on his football career when the times got tough.And yes, his stat line wasn’t impressive throwing the ball – 4-7 passing for 41 yards and a touchdown – but Phillips made plays with his feet, an added dimension that helped net UW an extra 79 yards on the ground. He also beat out Danny O’Brien for the starting job during the team’s bye week, even though O’Brien far and away had the most experience.So what does that say about Phillips?The team and coaches respect him enormously. And, yeah, he has some talent too.I’m not saying every player Bielema recruits is some sort of perfect human being. There have been some players who have been dismissed from the team in Bielema’s tenure, but for every one bad instance there are at least seven stories like Curt Phillips to overshadow it. And that’s what makes this Wisconsin program one to never give up on. Even when things look ugly, the character of its players is of the best possible quality.And that’s why, once again, the Badgers are just one game away from making a trip to Pasadena.Nick is a fifth-year senior majoring in English and history. Catch Nick on WSUM’s “The Badger Herald Sports Hour” Sundays from 4-5 p.m. and “The Student Section” Mondays from 4-6 p.m. Email him at [email protected] or send him a tweet @NickKorger.