Performing Arts Develops Brain Pathways, New Study Finds

By J Russ I. , Oct 10, 2016 03:09 AM EDT

Boring piano lessons during the weekend. Exhausting dance classes after school. People may feel that these are trivial things thought up by parents who have extra money to spend, but it seems that this isn't the case. Researchers from the International Laboratory for Brain, Music, and Research recently discovered an interesting link between dance, music, and brain development. 

"We 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," said Chiara Giacosa, PhD candidate in Concordia's Faculty of Arts and Science and the study's lead author. Giacosa and her colleagues used high-tech imaging to see the difference and outcome on what dance and music training produced.

The Effect Of Music And Dancing On Brain Development

For dancers, broader connections of fiber bundles were observed linking the sensory and motor areas of the brain. On the other hand, musicians showed stronger and consistent fiber bundles on the same region, reported Concordia.

Simply put, it seems that dancers, whose discipline involves a wide range of body movement, resulted in increased global brain connectivity, while musicians, who often train a specific body part like their hands, mouth, or fingers, had a more concentrated result in a particular area of their brain, explained MedicalNewsToday. So what are the benefits that this new research brings to the table?

Music And Dancing As Tools For Education and Rehabilitation

Virginia Penhune, the study's senior author, noted that these findings further expand our existing knowledge regarding brain connectivity and how we can alter it through training in the disciplines mentioned above. For instance, the research can be applied to children where they can be trained under a certain discipline to target a specific region of the brain to improve its function.

Another would be on rehabilitation cases or individuals suffering from certain diseases affecting their brain and how they can take advantage of the benefit that dancing offers. "Recent research has started to show some improvements with dance and music therapy in patients affected by Parkinson's disease and children with autism respectively, but much more can be done with these and other diseases," Penhune said.

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