Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 5-16

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Neuroaesthetics and beyond: new horizons in applying the science of the brain to the art of dance

  • Emily S. CrossAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesDepartment of Social and Cultural Psychology, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Email author 
  • , Luca F. TiciniAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesItalian Society of Neuroesthetics “Semir Zeki”


Throughout history, dance has maintained a critical presence across all human cultures, defying barriers of class, race, and status. How dance has synergistically co-evolved with humans has fueled a rich debate on the function of art and the essence of aesthetic experience, engaging numerous artists, historians, philosophers, and scientists. While dance shares many features with other art forms, one attribute unique to dance is that it is most commonly expressed with the human body. Because of this, social scientists and neuroscientists are turning to dance and dancers to help answer questions of how the brain coordinates the body to perform complex, precise, and beautiful movements. In the present paper, we discuss how recent advances in neuroscientific methods provide the tools to advance our understanding of not only the cerebral phenomena associated with dance learning and observation but also the neural underpinnings of aesthetic appreciation associated with watching dance. We suggest that future work within the fields of dance neuroscience and neuroaesthetics have the potential to provide mutual benefits to both the scientific and artistic communities.


Dance Neuroscience Neuroimaging Neuroaesthetics