Show Details

Brainy Impersonation

December 22, 2008

Professional impressionists use different parts of their brains than amateurs when impersonating famous people.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The brains behind the accent….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

SFX: Tina Fey Saturday Night Live clip: "Good evening my fellow Americans…" (impersonating Sarah Palin)

Comedienne Tina Fey was recently in the spotlight for her nearly flawless impersonation of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. What makes some impressionists so good at what they do? Researcher Sophie Scott of University College London compared the brain activity of professional impressionists with that of average people. She says the amateurs used just the speech area of their brains while attempting to vocally impersonate famous people. But the professionals also used an area of their brain responsible for visual imagery.

SOPHIE SCOTT (University College London):
We also find areas in motor cortex.

HIRSHON:
Scott says using these areas of the brain allows them to visualize what a famous person looks like and how they move, and then reproduce this in their own body. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.