Dancing Changes Your Brain
Blame it on the popularity of Dancing with the Stars.
Whatever the reason, there has been a decided upswing in the number of people dancing these days. And that may be changing a lot of people’s brains. Not that it’s a bad thing.
As we attempt to coordinate our bodies to the rhythm of the music (some more successfully than others), our brains are orchestrating our muscles and joints to perform over and above the requirements of our day-to-day lives.
We activate neurons and body chemicals to control the muscles that affect the joints, movement, and balance. Our nervous system jump starts groups of muscles, referred to as “motor modules,” which work together to achieve a wide range of motion.
At the same time the basal ganglia communicates with other brain regions to smoothly coordinate movement. The cerebellum integrates input from the brain and spinal cord into the planning of these fine and complex motor actions.
Switching from just thinking about our dance moves to doing them causes a shift in brain activity from the cerebrum -- the “thinking part” of the brain -- to the cerebellum, which controls equilibrium and balance, and coordinates movement signals produced in other parts of the brain.
There is a mountain of evidence that suggests physical activity yields large cognitive gains, like greater volume of gray matter in the hippocampal region of the brain -- an important area for memory. In particular, dancing can ward off brain diseases and increase mental acuity at all ages. Also, taking to the dance floor may dramatically reduce the occurrence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
So go ahead. Join the trend. Dance your way to a healthier brain.