St Ives student scans comedians’ brains in the name of science

Joe Necus

Joe Necus - Credit: Archant

A student from St Ives is scanning comedians’ brains as part of a study on why some people can speak non-stop.

Joe Necus, a master’s student at the University College London, is exploring the differences in people who can speak on one subject for a minute without repetition or hesitation, and those who are unable to do.

The 22-year-old neuroscientist, of Elm Drive, is looking to discover what differentiates the brains of “super speakers” from the rest, with the aim of seeing whether people have an innate ability to speak for England, or it’s something that is learned.

Along with Emilia Molimpakis and tutor Joe Devlin, Mr Necus is asking for volunteers to undergo an MRI scan, where they perform a task based on BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute and speak for 30 seconds each on 10 subjects. Volunteers will also be asked to count out loud.

At the end of the hour-long sessions, volunteers are given a tour of their brain and a picture of the scan.

So far, Mr Necus has scanned the brains of six “professionals”, including comedians Richard Herring and Robin Ince, as well as Absolute Radio presenter Geoff Lloyd. He is now looking for 14 more “professionals” to complete the study, having already completed scans of 20 “normal” people.

Mr Necus said: “I approached Joe Devlin, who has had this idea for a while, to see if I could join his team to form part of my dissertation.

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“The study looks at which area of the brain is being used, whether professionals use that area more than the normal population, less or even another part.

“The hardest part has been people keeping still in the scanner, as if they move you don’t get a result. It’s quite hard to move in there so we haven’t had too many we’ve had to do again.”

The study is expected to last until the end of March.

Mr Necus hopes to carry on to study a Phd in neuroscience.