How Music & Dance Affect Opposite Neurological Changes In the Brain

first_imgThere are distinct changes in sensory and motor pathways between the brains of dancers and musicians. Though, the effects on the brain between these creative activities are far from similar. According to research published in the journal NeuroImage, the changes in white matter are completely opposite to each other. While cultural practices often include dance and music together, mostly through desire, the importance of these traditions extend far beyond artistic measures.Researchers from the International Laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound Research in Montreal, Canada recently set out to compare and contrast the neurological changes within the brain that music and dance produce.Previous studies have confirmed that practicing music at an early age can pave changes in the pathways of the brain, building the brain like a muscle and strengthening the associated functions of each lobe. A finding from 2014 concluded that the most evident changes that musical training makes in the brain are between the two hemispheres (the corpus callosum). This area of the brain facilitates interhemispheric communication and is the largest area of white matter in the brain. Responsible for the distribution of action potentials, and acting as the coordinating center between different brain regions, this area of the brain actively affects learning and overall brain functions. So, it’s no wonder that parents have had their children practicing an instrument early on in life. Strengthening the corpus callosum is very important.While this has been said about music for some time now, dance has been less acknowledged as a brain-stimulating activity. While both skills involve intense training and focus, dance focuses on integrating visual, auditory, and motor coordination; whereas playing music mostly concentrates on auditory and motor information.Researchers used an advanced imaging technique called “diffusion tensor imaging” to explore the white matter structure of musicians, dancers, and brains that had training in neither activity. According to lead author Chiara Giacosa, researchers “found that dancers and musicians differed in many white matter regions, including sensory and motor pathways, both at the primary and higher cognitive levels of processing.”They found that the pathways most affected by training were in the bundles of fibers that link the sensory and motor regions of the brains, and the fibers of the corpus callosum that run between the hemispheres. For dancers, these sets of connections were more diffuse and broad, while musicians had the same connections, but were stronger, less diffuse, and showed more coherence in fiber bundles.“This suggests that dance and music training affect the brain in opposite directions, increasing global connectivity and crossing of fibers in dance training, and strengthening specific pathways in music training,” explains Giacosa.The broadness in the neural cortex might be explained by the dancer’s use of their whole body, which may encourage fibers to cross over and increase in size. Since musicians tend to focus their training on particular body parts (fingers, mouth), there will be smaller cortical representations in the brain.It’s also interesting to note that dancers and musicians differ exponentially when compared to the untrained control subjects. The reasons for this aren’t acutely identifiable, but could be for a number of reasons. Giacosa explains, “[…] our samples of dancers and musicians were specifically selected to be pure groups of experts, which makes it easier to differentiate between them.” Also, the group of untrained subjects also exhibited diversity in their range of interests and life experiences. More research is needed to articulate the difference in connections between musicians, dancers, non-musicians, and non-dancers.This particular research could, and should, be continued. The results, while interesting in face value, might also have purpose in education and rehabilitation for the strengthening of brain activity.According to senior author Professor Virginia Penhune, “Understanding how dance and music training differently affect brain networks will allow us to selectively use them to enhance their functioning or compensate for difficulties and diseases that involve those specific brain networks.”So far, dance and music therapy is under investigation for its potential use in the treatments of Parkinson’s and autism. Of course, we hope the research is continued and applied to saving people from these various diseases.We also think you should “Let all the children boogie.”[via Medical News Today]last_img

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