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Dance Your *** Off; Grow a Bigger Brain

Just a week ago we summarized research lead by Neuroscientist Aga Burzynska, PhD that showed that dancing improved brain white matter, while other exercise and the control group didn’t. Now we have another related research study led by Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld that shows important brain improvement from dancing. The research was conducted at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and at the Otto von Geuricke University Medical Center.  Further, dancing achieved better results than an exercise program.

Participants were divided into two groups. One group took dancing lessons. The dance steps and routines became more complex as the study continued. The second group did a combination of endurance training, strength training, flexibility and stretching. Both groups showed measurable improvement. However, the dancers showed more improvement in the part of the brain associated with balance.

From the study: “Results reveal that higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels (VO2 Max) are associated with larger hippocampal volumes in late adulthood, and that larger hippocampal volumes may, in turn, contribute to better memory function.”

As we at www.bigbrain.place have noted before, neurogenesis-growing new brain cells-is associated with learning to do new activities that require concentration and fine motor skills. Dr. Rehfeld’s dance therapy, combining the physical and mental requirements of learning new dance steps-e.g.-bop to salsa-while following the different beats of the changing music, fits that bill.

The results were so encouraging that the study authors are working on creating a new program of dancing and exercise. As they noted: “The dancers showed increases in some hippocampal subfields where there was no change to be observed in the sports (i.e.-exercise) group”.


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