David Kane had never played keyboard quite like this. Sure, the 53-year-old musician and composer had experienced his share of cramped recording studios and poorly tuned pianos during his 37-year career. But those inconveniences paled in comparison to this session. Kane lay prostrate in an MRI tube, with a miniature electronic keyboard perched on his knees. He relied on a set of mirrors to visualize his fingers on the keys.
"Physically, it wasn't too uncomfortable," he jokes today, "but for my creative space, it was horrible." Kane, though, persevered and played some jazz, in the name of music—and science. For right outside the MRI machine, scientist Charles Limb stared intently at a computer monitor, observing Kane's brain activity as he played a combination of pre-written and improvised melodies. Limb's goal? No less than trying to unravel the secrets of human creativity.