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Sensorimotor integration is enhanced in dancers and musicians


Studying individuals with specialized training, such as dancers and musicians, provides an opportunity to investigate how intensive practice of sensorimotor skills affects behavioural performance across various domains. While several studies have found that musicians have improved motor, perceptual and sensorimotor integration skills compared to untrained controls, fewer studies have examined the effect of dance training on such skills. Moreover, no study has specifically compared the effects of dance versus music training on perceptual or sensorimotor performance. To this aim, in the present study, expert dancers, expert musicians and untrained controls were tested on a range of perceptual and sensorimotor tasks designed to discriminate performance profiles across groups. Dancers performed better than musicians and controls on a dance imitation task (involving whole-body movement), but musicians performed better than dancers and controls on a musical melody discrimination task as well as on a rhythm synchronization task (involving finger tapping). These results indicate that long-term intensive dance and music training are associated with distinct enhancements in sensorimotor skills. This novel work advances knowledge of the effects of long-term dance versus music training and has potential applications in therapies for motor disorders.

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We would like to thank our participants for their time, as well as Alessia Di Cesare, Veronica Yuk, and Dana Boebinger for their assistance in the data collection process. This work was funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) to Dr. Krista Hyde.

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Correspondence to Falisha J. Karpati.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.

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Karpati, F.J., Giacosa, C., Foster, N.E.V. et al. Sensorimotor integration is enhanced in dancers and musicians. Exp Brain Res 234, 893–903 (2016).

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  • Dancers
  • Musicians
  • Sensorimotor integration
  • Dance video game
  • Rhythm
  • Melody