Dancing and the Brain
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.”—Martha Graham
Dance has been found to have positive effects on the brain and is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease. More recently, researchers have started studying the complex mental coordination that dance requires. Music itself stimulates the reward center in the brain, while dance activates sensory and motor circuits. Research has also shown that physical activity associated with dance provides benefits such as memory improvement and strengthened neuronal connections. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine (2003) concluded that out of 11 different types of physical activity, only dance lowered the participants’ risk of dementia. Furthermore, a study at North Dakota’s Minot State University (2012), found that Zumba (Latin-style dance) improves visual recognition and decision-making.
Specifically looking at Parkinson’s Disease, since it involves a motor-system disorder, dance helps to alleviate its symptoms of slowed movement, tremors, and impaired balance/coordination. From personal experience, my physical therapy school had a mock clinic purely for Parkinson’s patients called “Parkinson’s Dance Group.” Each student would be paired with someone who had Parkinson’s disease and we would walk them through a choreographed dance number. It was amazing to see how people that walked in hunched over, shuffling slowly, and using a cane, suddenly came to life with music and dance. It truly proved that people with this diagnosis are capable of a lot more than they (and we!) often give themselves credit for!
Skeptical about how powerful music/dance is? Check out this awesome video!
Information provided by: http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/dancing-and-brain