Dance and Aging: A Critical Review of Findings in Neuroscience

Abstract

Significant developments in health applications for dance have occurred over the past 40 years. While neurological changes associated with physical exercise have been well researched and documented, dance has yet to receive the same attention and represents an area of extreme interest for further study given its many reported benefits. The objective of this review is to critically examine the existing literature on observed neurological effects of dance interventions within the elderly population. A comprehensive literature search was performed using six different databases, and included dance interventions involving ballet, ballroom, tango, several cultural dances, and dance/movement therapy, with five elderly population types comprised of both healthy individuals and those exhibiting neurological impairments. The articles were critically appraised using formal research guidelines. In total, 44 appropriate and relevant studies were identified and short listed. Together, all studies examined three major domains: (1) cognition, (2) sensorimotor performance, and (3) underlying neurobiological factors. Twenty-one studies investigated the effects of dance on cognition, 27 on sensorimotor performance (gait, static and dynamic balance), and seven evaluated the effects on underlying neurobiological factors. Post-dance intervention findings showed significant improvements in several aspects of brain function involving cognition and sensorimotor performance; however, only a few studies were found which related the significance of dance interventions to its potential affect on various neurobiological factors. There is a need for future research investigating the direct effects of dance interventions on neurobiological changes in the elderly which this review begins to address.

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Correspondence to Joseph F. X. DeSouza.

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Kshtriya, S., Barnstaple, R., Rabinovich, D.B. et al. Dance and Aging: A Critical Review of Findings in Neuroscience. Am J Dance Ther 37, 81–112 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10465-015-9196-7

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Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Dance
  • Neurobiological factors
  • Sensorimotor performance