While music alone can unlock people with parkinsonism, and movement or exercise of any kind is also beneficial, an ideal combination of music and movement is provided by dance (and dancing with a partner, or in a social setting, brings to bear other therapeutic dimensions).
~ Oliver Sacks author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
A Frontiers in Psychology article entitled New framework for rehabilitation – fusion of cognitive and physical rehabilitation: the hope for dancing reports that “intervention based human studies, with a focus on healthy older adults, have been able to show that exercise training can enhance brain plasticity and cognition. Specifically, greater executive, controlled, spatial and speed processes were linked to fitness training, with executive control showing the largest effect size.”
The same article explains that music invokes “the widespread activity of various brain regions related to sensorimotor, higher order cognitive and emotional processes. Such processes can include auditory processing, attention, memory and sensory-motor integration, leading to the involvement of networks that consist of frontal, temporal, parietal and subcortical regions. Music processing can also be quite a complex task, recruiting various brain regions that are associated with the different components found in music, including pitch, timbre, rhythm, melody, recognition, and emotion”.
The article concludes that dance has the same benefits as physical and music therapies. “Dance may be able to aid with both physical and cognitive impairments, particularly due to the combined nature of including both physical and cognitive stimulation. Not only does it incorporate physical and motor skill related activities, but it can also engage various cognitive functions such as perception, emotion, and memory. This may allow dance to have a positive impact on not only physical, but cognitive functioning as well.”
An added benefit to dance is its ability to “promote adherence” because it is such an enjoyable endeavor. According to the article “it has been estimated that over 50% of participants who begin an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months. This is particularly prominent in older adults, who may initially be willing to participate in an exercise program, but only do so for the short term, eventually stopping. Unfortunately, the benefits of exercise require continued participation, making the issue of adherence that much more important.”
There are many initiatives that recognize the power of dance. A wonderful and inspiring example is the Dancing with Parkinson’s classes.