When auditory hair cells vibrate in your inner ear you perceive sound. But when auditory hair cells dance you perceive music.
The relationship between music and dance is rooted at the sensory level. Both music and dance result when space and time form an intimate bond that takes on a life of its own. The power of music and dance on the brain and body has a profound healing potential that is part of the future of preventive and restorative health care.
In 1905 Einstein introduced the idea that space and time are not separate but rather form a spacetime continuum. In his new book, ‘Reality Is Not What It Seems’, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli explains that the past, present and future exist together in an ‘extended present’ that is interconnected by timeless light beams. I say ‘timeless’ because if you were traveling on a light beam time would stand still for you. For example, the sun that we see in the sky is the sun from 15 minutes ago, because it takes 15 minutes for light to travel 90 million miles to the earth. However, the light is not 15 minutes old! In essence we are witnessing a direct connection through time and the sun’s past is directly connecting to our present through spacetime energy fluctuations.
In a metaphorically similar way, music and dance also connect the past, present and future in the brain resulting in powerful stimulation and regeneration of brain cells. In the 2014 film, Alive Inside, by Michael Rossato-Bennett, Dan Cohen of Music and Memory discusses how music awakens elderly people suffering from dementia by reviving brain circuitry from the past that has remained dormant for long periods of time.
The Alive Inside video shows dramatic examples of the power of music for combating brain degeneration resulting from illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One can only imagine the power of music, when used properly, to keep the brain vibrant, healthy, and free from illness.
Now consider that by combining music with dance we can magnify the beneficial effect on the brain in a way that is more than just the sum of the parts. This approach is being promoted by a nonprofit organization named ‘Dance for PD.’ As shown below, this approach appears to trigger brain activation that allows Parkinson’s patients a greater degree of freedom to move.
Researchers led by neuroscientist Joseph DeSouza at York University in Toronto believe that dance can rebuild the brains pathways. He states that dance is a very effective form of brain training because it involves complex brain functions associated with timing, movement, coding and decoding.
Participants claim that dancing helps them not only physically but cognitively as well. In paper published in January 2015 by Prabhjot Dhami , Sylvain Moreno and Joseph F. X. DeSouza, it is argued that dance appears to be a tool that combines both cognitive and physical rehabilitation strategies. The authors state:
“Not only does it incorporate physical and motor skill related activities, but it can also engage various cognitive functions such as perception, emotion, and memory, all while being done in an enriched environment.”
But of course, dance is not only a good tool for rehabilitation, and the authors also mention a study by Kattenstroth et al. (2010) in which elderly individuals with multiyear dancing activity were able to prevent cognitive decline when compared to non-dancing controls.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get our dancing on!
Kattenstroth, J. C., Kolankowska, I., Kalisch, T., and Dinse, H. R. (2010). Superior sensory, motor, and cognitive performance in elderly individuals with multiyear dancing activities. Front. Aging Neurosci. 2:31. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2010. 00031