As a postdoctoral research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at the MGH, Mike Datko, PhD, spends much of his time listening to the sounds that MRIs produce. He also happens to have a background in drumming, so it was only natural for him to begin recognizing rhythm in those sounds.

“A lot of drummers will hear rhythm in random sounds,” Datko says. “They superimpose that rhythm onto the natural sounds they hear. There’s a rhythm to MRI sounds sometimes, so I thought it would be interesting to have it be more intentional.”

Using recorded versions of MRI sequences, Datko pieces together sounds and manipulates their pitches to create songs.

“I’ve done a few live performances and played at different conferences,” Datko says. “I played at a social event at the Society for Neuroscience and created an MRI version of the Tetris theme song for the Organization for Human Brain Mapping conference in 2019.”

While Datko typically improvises with these sounds on his electronic drum set, he’s also well-known at the Martinos Center for his holiday song creations.

In 2018, Datko wrote an MRI rendition of “Jingle Bells.” This year, he chose to produce “Carol of the Bells,” which he renamed “Carol of the Coils” as a nod to MRI gradient coils.

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