The experiment was conducted by Sophie Scott of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London to determine what happens to an actor's brain when they "become" another character.
Shaw performed selections of T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land," which required her to perform several different characters (including a Cockney woman). The MRI would scan Shaw's brain during her readings, as well as when she simply counted (in order to show brain activity during regular speech), and another scan was done when Shaw was at rest.
While complete findings will be presented as part of a new exhibit on identity, early readings indicated that parts of the brain used for complex visual imagery were activated when Shaw incorporated visualization techniques to conjure her character. The MRI also detected activity in the area of the brain which controls the movement of arms and hands (though Shaw was lying still). Results indicate that Shaw would have been visualizing movement.
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