In a study published in the journal Neurocase, Daniel Levitin, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, scanned the brain of famous Police frontman Sting. This scan took place while Levitin would play two different pieces of music, for example The Beatles “Girl” followed by a tango by Astor Piazzolla. To the untrained ear, these two pieces would seem entirely dissimilar. But with Sting’s musical expertise, his brain picked up on similarities between the pieces that others wouldn’t, such as a three-note pattern that is present in both The Beatles’ and Piazzolla’s tunes.
From NPR‘s coverage of this study:
What this suggests is that his brain is extracting this latent information and keeping track of it. Daniel Levitin says this helps us understand how expertise works in the brain. He has found some people, such as Sting, are born with certain talents, and then they nurture those talents to become experts.