Actors shut down parts of their brains to take on roles, scans reveal – The Independent
Science and Nature

Actors shut down parts of their brains to take on roles, scans reveal – The Independent

To truly inhabit a role, actors must effectively turn off part of their brain, according to a new study based on brain scans of thespians. 

In a series of experiments, actors were placed in MRI machines and asked to respond to questions as if they were Romeo or Juliet during the “balcony scene” from William Shakespeare’s play.

Scientists were surprised to see that as the participants mused on concepts ranging from romance to religion, their brains were truly taken over by those of the famous star-crossed lovers


We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

From
15p
€0.18
$0.18
USD 0.27
a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

They watched as brain activity dropped off, with a notable deactivation in a part of the frontal lobe.

This result suggested the portrayal of a fictional character goes far deeper than simply learning a script. 

left
Created with Sketch.





















right
Created with Sketch.





















1/21 Animal with transient anus discovered

A scientist has stumbled upon a creature with a “transient anus” that appears only when it is needed, before vanishing completely. Dr Sidney Tamm of the Marine Biological Laboratory could not initially find any trace of an anus on the species. However, as the animal gets full, a pore opens up to dispose of waste

Steven G Johnson

2/21 Giant bee spotted

Feared extinct, the Wallace’s Giant bee has been spotted for the first time in nearly 40 years. An international team of conservationists spotted the bee, that is four times the size of a typical honeybee, on an expedition to a group of Indonesian Islands

Clay Bolt

3/21 New mammal species found inside crocodile

Fossilised bones digested by crocodiles have revealed the existence of three new mammal species that roamed the Cayman Islands 300 years ago. The bones belonged to two large rodent species and a small shrew-like animal

New Mexico Museum of Natural History

4/21 Fabric that changes according to temperature created

Scientists at the University of Maryland have created a fabric that adapts to heat, expanding to allow more heat to escape the body when warm and compacting to retain more heat when cold

Faye Levine, University of Maryland

5/21 Baby mice tears could be used in pest control

A study from the University of Tokyo has found that the tears of baby mice cause female mice to be less interested in the sexual advances of males

Getty

6/21 Final warning to limit “climate catastrophe”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a report which projects the impact of a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius and warns against a higher increase

Getty

7/21 Nobel prize for evolution chemists

The nobel prize for chemistry has been awarded to three chemists working with evolution. Frances Smith is being awarded the prize for her work on directing the evolution of enzymes, while Gregory Winter and George Smith take the prize for their work on phage display of peptides and antibodies

Getty/AFP

8/21 Nobel prize for laser physicists

The nobel prize for physics has been awarded to three physicists working with lasers. Arthur Ashkin (L) was awarded for his “optical tweezers” which use lasers to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells. Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou were jointly awarded the prize for developing chirped-pulse amplification of lasers

Reuters/AP

9/21 Discovery of a new species of dinosaur

The Ledumahadi Mafube roamed around 200 million years ago in what is now South Africa. Recently discovered by a team of international scientists, it was the largest land animal of its time, weighing 12 tons and standing at 13 feet. In Sesotho, the South African language of the region in which the dinosaur was discovered, its name means “a giant thunderclap at dawn”

Viktor Radermacher / SWNS

10/21 Birth of a planet

Scientists have witnessed the birth of a planet for the first time ever.
This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the center of the image, which is blacked out by the coronagraph mask used to block the blinding light of the central star.

ESO/A. Müller et al

11/21 New human organ discovered that was previously missed by scientists

Layers long thought to be dense, connective tissue are actually a series of fluid-filled compartments researchers have termed the “interstitium”.
These compartments are found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, and join together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins

Getty

12/21 Previously unknown society lived in Amazon rainforest before Europeans arrived, say archaeologists

Working in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team led by archaeologists at the University of Exeter unearthed hundreds of villages hidden in the depths of the rainforest.
These excavations included evidence of fortifications and mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs

José Iriarte

13/21 One in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on fingerprints, study finds

More than one in 10 people were found to have traces of class A drugs on their fingers by scientists developing a new fingerprint-based drug test.
Using sensitive analysis of the chemical composition of sweat, researchers were able to tell the difference between those who had been directly exposed to heroin and cocaine, and those who had encountered it indirectly.

Getty

14/21 Nasa releases stunning images of Jupiter’s great red spot

The storm bigger than the Earth, has been swhirling for 350 years. The image’s colours have been enhanced after it was sent back to Earth.

Pictures by: Tom Momary

15/21 A 3D reconstruction of an African grey parrot post euthanasia

Included in Wellcome Image Awards, this 3D image of an African grey parrot shows the highly intricate system of blood vessels.

Scott Birch. Wellcome Images

16/21 Baby Hawaiian bobtail squid

Another Wellcome Images Award winner, this time of baby Hawaiian bobtail squid. The black ink sac and light organ in the centre of the squid’s mantle cavity can be clearly seen.

Macroscopic Solutions. Wellcome Images

17/21 Skeletons of 5,000-year-old Chinese ‘giants’ discovered by archaeologists

The people are thought to have been unusually tall and strong. The tallest of the skeletons uncovered measured at 1.9m

YouTube

18/21 Nasa discovers 75,000 mile-wide hole in the Sun

Sunspots are caused by interactions with the Sun’s magnetic field and are cooler areas on the star’s surface.

Nasa

19/21 View(active tab) Apple News Breaking news email Edit Revisions Workflow Clear Cache NewsScience 132 million-year-old dinosaur fossil found at factory in Surrey

Paleontologists Sarah Moore and Jamie Jordan believe they have discovered a Iguanodon dinosaur, a herbivore that was around three metres tall and 10 metres long

Cambridge Photographers/Wienerberger

20/21 Discovering life on Mars is less likely as researchers find toxic chemicals on its surface

The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars

Getty Images

21/21 An iris clip fitted onto the eye

This images is apart of the Wellcome Images Awards and shows how an artificial intraocular lens is fitted onto the eye. Used for conditions such as myopia and cataracts.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS FT. Wellcome Images


1/21 Animal with transient anus discovered

A scientist has stumbled upon a creature with a “transient anus” that appears only when it is needed, before vanishing completely. Dr Sidney Tamm of the Marine Biological Laboratory could not initially find any trace of an anus on the species. However, as the animal gets full, a pore opens up to dispose of waste

Steven G Johnson

2/21 Giant bee spotted

Feared extinct, the Wallace’s Giant bee has been spotted for the first time in nearly 40 years. An international team of conservationists spotted the bee, that is four times the size of a typical honeybee, on an expedition to a group of Indonesian Islands

Clay Bolt

3/21 New mammal species found inside crocodile

Fossilised bones digested by crocodiles have revealed the existence of three new mammal species that roamed the Cayman Islands 300 years ago. The bones belonged to two large rodent species and a small shrew-like animal

New Mexico Museum of Natural History

4/21 Fabric that changes according to temperature created

Scientists at the University of Maryland have created a fabric that adapts to heat, expanding to allow more heat to escape the body when warm and compacting to retain more heat when cold

Faye Levine, University of Maryland


5/21 Baby mice tears could be used in pest control

A study from the University of Tokyo has found that the tears of baby mice cause female mice to be less interested in the sexual advances of males

Getty

6/21 Final warning to limit “climate catastrophe”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a report which projects the impact of a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius and warns against a higher increase

Getty

7/21 Nobel prize for evolution chemists

The nobel prize for chemistry has been awarded to three chemists working with evolution. Frances Smith is being awarded the prize for her work on directing the evolution of enzymes, while Gregory Winter and George Smith take the prize for their work on phage display of peptides and antibodies

Getty/AFP

8/21 Nobel prize for laser physicists

The nobel prize for physics has been awarded to three physicists working with lasers. Arthur Ashkin (L) was awarded for his “optical tweezers” which use lasers to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells. Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou were jointly awarded the prize for developing chirped-pulse amplification of lasers

Reuters/AP


9/21 Discovery of a new species of dinosaur

The Ledumahadi Mafube roamed around 200 million years ago in what is now South Africa. Recently discovered by a team of international scientists, it was the largest land animal of its time, weighing 12 tons and standing at 13 feet. In Sesotho, the South African language of the region in which the dinosaur was discovered, its name means “a giant thunderclap at dawn”

Viktor Radermacher / SWNS

10/21 Birth of a planet

Scientists have witnessed the birth of a planet for the first time ever.
This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the center of the image, which is blacked out by the coronagraph mask used to block the blinding light of the central star.

ESO/A. Müller et al

11/21 New human organ discovered that was previously missed by scientists

Layers long thought to be dense, connective tissue are actually a series of fluid-filled compartments researchers have termed the “interstitium”.
These compartments are found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, and join together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins

Getty

12/21 Previously unknown society lived in Amazon rainforest before Europeans arrived, say archaeologists

Working in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team led by archaeologists at the University of Exeter unearthed hundreds of villages hidden in the depths of the rainforest.
These excavations included evidence of fortifications and mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs

José Iriarte


13/21 One in 10 people have traces of cocaine or heroin on fingerprints, study finds

More than one in 10 people were found to have traces of class A drugs on their fingers by scientists developing a new fingerprint-based drug test.
Using sensitive analysis of the chemical composition of sweat, researchers were able to tell the difference between those who had been directly exposed to heroin and cocaine, and those who had encountered it indirectly.

Getty

14/21 Nasa releases stunning images of Jupiter’s great red spot

The storm bigger than the Earth, has been swhirling for 350 years. The image’s colours have been enhanced after it was sent back to Earth.

Pictures by: Tom Momary

15/21 A 3D reconstruction of an African grey parrot post euthanasia

Included in Wellcome Image Awards, this 3D image of an African grey parrot shows the highly intricate system of blood vessels.

Scott Birch. Wellcome Images

16/21 Baby Hawaiian bobtail squid

Another Wellcome Images Award winner, this time of baby Hawaiian bobtail squid. The black ink sac and light organ in the centre of the squid’s mantle cavity can be clearly seen.

Macroscopic Solutions. Wellcome Images


17/21 Skeletons of 5,000-year-old Chinese ‘giants’ discovered by archaeologists

The people are thought to have been unusually tall and strong. The tallest of the skeletons uncovered measured at 1.9m

YouTube

18/21 Nasa discovers 75,000 mile-wide hole in the Sun

Sunspots are caused by interactions with the Sun’s magnetic field and are cooler areas on the star’s surface.

Nasa

19/21 View(active tab) Apple News Breaking news email Edit Revisions Workflow Clear Cache NewsScience 132 million-year-old dinosaur fossil found at factory in Surrey

Paleontologists Sarah Moore and Jamie Jordan believe they have discovered a Iguanodon dinosaur, a herbivore that was around three metres tall and 10 metres long

Cambridge Photographers/Wienerberger

20/21 Discovering life on Mars is less likely as researchers find toxic chemicals on its surface

The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars

Getty Images


21/21 An iris clip fitted onto the eye

This images is apart of the Wellcome Images Awards and shows how an artificial intraocular lens is fitted onto the eye. Used for conditions such as myopia and cataracts.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS FT. Wellcome Images

The research was led by Dr Steven Brown, a neuroscientist at Canada’s McMaster University, who specialises in how the brain behaves while people are participating in music, dance and other art forms. 

As no one had ever attempted to measure the brain activity underpinning drama, Dr Brown recruited a group of willing, university-trained actors to participate in his new study.

Inspired by a visit to Brazil in which he witnessed an indigenous possession ceremony, he thought there may be parallels to be drawn with actors.

“I got the idea that maybe acting was a bit similar to possession – that when you’re acting you’re kind of being taken over by character,” said Dr Brown.

This, he said, influenced his interpretation of the experiments, which he had originally assumed would reveal something quite different.

Normally his team looks for increases in brain activity that may underlie artistic pursuits, but in this study they were surprised to find activity was actually decreasing in certain key areas.


Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent Minds

“There wasn’t a literature to go by to make predictions, because this was the first study of its kind,” he said. “We thought there might be activation increases relating to pretending to be some kind of character – but instead we saw this activation decrease. That was very surprising to us.”

Over the course of four sessions in the MRI machines, the participants had to respond in four different ways – as themselves, as themselves with a British accent, answering for a friend and finally as if they were either Romeo or Juliet.

Only while undertaking their Shakespearean role did the people show deactivations in regions across their brains.

Like the people in the ceremony he had witnessed, Dr Brown suggested these people were actually losing their “sense of self” as they inhabited the characters’ minds.

Though this new area of research is still in its early days, publishing their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Sciencethe scientists said their study provided the first step towards understanding how people’s brains change when they take on different roles – whether in their daily lives or on stage.


We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

At The Independent, no one tells us what to write. That’s why, in an era of political lies and Brexit bias, more readers are turning to an independent source. Subscribe from just 15p a day for extra exclusives, events and ebooks – all with no ads.

Subscribe now

Read More