Dance is an activity that has many implications in today’s world. Dance can be done for exercise, an enjoyable pastime, a form of artistic expression, and even for therapeutic purposes.
Dance is being studied for therapeutic treatment of neurological and mood disorders. Furthermore, scientists are interested in the brain structure of dancers versus non-dancers.
People dance for various reasons. Dance is more than a ritual today, but also an alternative to exercise, a sport, and even a passionate hobby. Dance is also used as a form of therapy for multiple reasons. Dance as a form of therapy is heavily discussed among researchers, especially if it works.
There is research that lacks significant data needed so as to rely on dance as an effective therapy. It is hard to have a clear vision on the effects of dance therapy in non dancers.
So first, scientists much investigate the effects dance has on the brain. Now, professional dancers maintain a strict lifestyle to remain the best in their job.
This intensity helps scientists in discovering how a dancer’s brain differs to a non dancer’s brain. Dance has influenced numerous researchers, but previous studies have not been as in depth as the following study, The Dancing Brain: Structural and Functional Signatures of Expert Dance Training.
In this study, the researchers, like others in their field, examined previous discoveries in order determine the best question to answer.
The question to be answered is whether or not dancers have a significantly better brain function and brain structure compared to non dancers due to their extensive training in dance.The researchers ultimately have the goal to discover the effects dance may have on a normal highly trained dancer’s brain.
They will look at the overall cognition, structure, and function of each participants’ brain. In order to ensure the participants’ eligibility, they were to complete a survey and in depth live-questioning by a qualified lab assistant.
The researchers also decided to use only females as to avoid the differences in the brain in sex. Afterwards, participants completed two extensive test sessions. The first including numerous basic tests, such as vision and BMI, as well as a faux MRI. It also consisted of the dance video game.
The second test session includes a real MRI and various neuropsychological tests including separate spatial memory and relational memory tests and one that tests the participants’ balance.
As for the cognitive portion, the participants completed the Virginia Cognitive Aging Project, yet left out the portions regarding memory and vocabulary. The researchers used the fMRI to measure the brain activity regarding dance images and images with no relation to dance in the brains of every participant.
Each of the test sessions gathered all that was needed in order to determine the difference in brain functions and brain structure in both dancers and non dancers.
The results of the participants, specifically dancers, is that age matters. Dancers who were relatively older performed poorly in the dance video game compared to the younger dancers.
However in non dancers, if they reported to casual dance related activity, there was no significant effect between age. Altogether the dancers were significantly better at the dance video game.
Now, the results in cognitive terms, there was no huge difference in either dancers or non dancers. Yet, dancers resulted in having lower spatial memory and relational memory test scores. Brain volume among the dancers and non dancers had no significant difference.
As obvious as it may seem, balance did not affect dance ability in the dancers, but if a non dancer had better balance, they were more likely to be better at dancing.
In the dance game altogether, the ability to copy the dances effectively showed good motor skills in both dancers and non dancers regardless of their age or exposure to similar video games.
Researchers saw a higher AON stimulation in dancers which showed that their extensive training gave them an advantage to the memorization and repetition needed for the dance video game.
In all, the dancers and non dancers had their advantages and disadvantages in each of the tests administered. There was a noticeable difference in their abilities in spatial and relational memory as well as brain function and brain structure.
Dance ultimately affected numerous abilities and areas in the brain. The amount of dance training significantly affected the participants results.
From the data though, there was no group superior than the other in the cognitive region, but obviously there was a superior group regarding the motor skills and brain activity involved in dancing.
The researchers findings are important due to the fact that having a high discipline or skill in dance can affect the brain structure and function of a person. This can lead to further studies in dance and the brain or even other disciplines or skills that require an intense training and how those may affect one’s brain.
A new question that comes from this study is whether or not having excessive training in another sport tells scientists if the brain is affected accordingly. For example, if a person has had professional tennis lessons four times a week for ten years, does that affect their brain function and structure?
Extreme discipline in one sport or subject could affect one’s brain function and structure, but how could one know without studying other areas besides dance.
By examining dance only, it gives people answers regarding dance specifically, but to figure out the effects on the brain regarding intense training in general, there needs to be more studies conducted in relation to various disciplines and the human brain.
As for a method to be used to answer the new question, one would study both college tennis players and college non tennis players. For starters, the average college age would be the primary age examined due to its easy access.
One would also investigate both men and women in order to expand, yet still keep the number of participants relatively low as to get the best results possible. While including both men and women, there is more variability and less limitations.
In order to keep the experiment similar to the dance study, one could test cognition by the Virginia Cognitive Aging Project and view the participants’ tennis playing through a video game. As for the replacement task for balance, each participant would hit a tennis ball and be examined for their accuracy.
The MRI would be performed and participants would be shown extensive videos regarding tennis and their brain functions measured. Once it is all completed, one would be closer to determining whether or not extensive discipline or skill matters in terms of affecting a person’s brain function and structure.
Altogether, people are complex as individuals, but the brain is something entirely different. Each individual’s brain is similar and while simultaneously being extremely unique. However in all these studies, researchers conclude with related results.
Each person has a different result in a study, yet when put together a generalization can be made. So to generalize the effect of intense training done to the brain would be a significant revelation to the brain. This would be important to study and understand in order to fully grasp the human brain in its entirety.
If having an advanced skill in one sport or subject influences the brain in any way, it would be incredibly useful if not, necessary to comprehend. This knowledge could be used to promote certain sports or hobbies that improve one’s brain and even lead to new therapies, similar to dance.
Studies of the brain keep scientists on their toes in terms of change, while also giving them the knowledge needed to understand the brain a little bit better each time. The brain is extraordinary and discipline and skill is an important part of life for all people. This could help unlock the secrets of the mind.