The Brain Loves to Dance

brain

 

Have you ever gone to dance class in a slump, feeling tired and fuzzy minded?  I bet that you did not feel the same way when you left class. (Well perhaps your body felt a bit more tired afterwards.) There is no way to go through a dance class and not use your brain. Every movement, detail, and combination is performed from the brain first, and you need split second speed in order to continuously be in motion. Awareness of your surroundings is also an element which is incredibly important, so you don’t take one of your classmates down by accident.

Over the years that I’ve been dancing, I have definitely felt a certain stigma towards dancers which implies that we are not very smart. However the truth is, some of the smartest people I know happen to be dancers, and I believe this is a result of how much we use our brains before, during, and after dancing. We warm up our bodies, but also our minds too. In order to be fully prepared to begin a class, our brain must be involved and active. Once class begins, our minds are constantly multi-tasking; from remembering the order of steps in combinations, to applying our technique, to synchronizing our movements with the music, maintaining spacial awareness, and performing the movement overall, as well as applying our own individual artistry. There are so many elements of the brain working at once that it is a miracle it does not shut down from overuse!

In scientific terms, the regions of the brain that are stimulated during the process of dancing include: “the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. The motor cortex is involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movement. The somatosensory cortex, located in the mid region of the brain, is responsible for motor control and also plays a role in eye-hand coordination. The basal ganglia, a group of structures deep in the brain, work with other brain regions to smoothly coordinate movement, while the cerebellum integrates input from the brain and spinal cord and helps in the planning of fine and complex motor actions”(Edwards, par 4). Isn’t that fascinating? We are consciously aware that we are working all of the muscles, tendons, and joints of our extremities throughout class, as we can feel them working during each and every movement, but we tend to forget that so many parts of our brain are working as well.

In recent scientific studies regarding neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, dance has been found to significantly reduce the effects these diseases can have on the brain. An increase of intelligence can help to rectify such effects, and help improve mental acuity.  Since “intelligence is what we use when we do not already know what to do” (Powers, par 5) activities that require split second rapid fire decisions, such as dancing, allow for this increase to happen. That is why learning new things helps to increase our intelligence, as it assists in creating new neural pathways.

So keep on dancing, because your brain loves it!

~Victoria

 

Sources:

  1. Edwards, Scott. “Dancing and the Brain.” Dancing and the Brain. Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.
  2. Powers, Richard. “Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.” Stanford Dance. Stanford, 30 July 2010. Web. 04 May 2016.

Water, Agua, H2O

Glass of water
Is this glass of water making you thirsty? If so, you’re already partially dehydrated.

Maybe you like it, maybe you hate it, maybe you prefer to swim in it rather than drink it… However you feel about water, there is no denying its importance to your health and your body. Especially a super active body that is constantly bending into all different shapes and moving in every direction. We have all heard the phrase “you should drink eight glasses of water a day”, but have you actually tried to track how much water you consume in one day? Sometimes it is difficult to track, if you’re on the run all the time, or alternating between a refillable bottle of water, and glasses of water when you are home. It’s easy to believe that you are drinking plenty of water just by going through a normal day, but if you really focus on it, you will find that it is actually easy to go through a day depriving your body of the water it needs.

So, you most likely already knew that you should drink a good amount of water, but do you really know why? Here are some important reasons below:

1.You, yes you, just sitting there as a human being are made up of 55%-70% water. Kind of hard to believe, right? How do we not just turn into a puddle all the time? (Maybe the Wicked Witch of the West melting away wasn’t such an exaggeration after all…) Anything that has a majority percentage contributing to its makeup, obviously needs that very thing to keep existing. Take a house for example. Say a house is made up of roughly 60% wood on top of the original foundation. Well, if you take away even just 5% of that wood, the house will not be able to stand and will end up collapsing. The same thing would happen to your body if it becomes dehydrated.

2.  By drinking your fair share of water, you avoid dehydration (and therefore the collapse of your house). If your body does become dehydrated, you will start to feel many different symptoms such as: fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and dry skin. All of which are not helpful when dancing and certainly do not allow you to perform at your best.

3. Your brain also needs to stay hydrated! To stay focused and sharp in order to remember choreography and movement, your brain needs to be clear and at its best all the time. With even just a small depletion of water in the body, your brain will start to lose cognitive function and therefore your memory, your ability to think on your feet, and your dancing will be effected.

4. Your heart has to put in a lot of work from the constant cardiovascular needs of dancing. You wouldn’t want to make its job harder, would you? Without enough water, your blood viscosity increases therefore making your heart have to pump harder in order for blood to flow through the vessels and oxygen to travel to the organs and tissues of your body.

These are only a few major reasons why we must drink plenty of water! You cannot be physically active all the time, and not replenish your body with the amount of hydration it needs to function at its best. So if you are not currently drinking a glass of water, please get up and go get one. Your body will thank you!

~Victoria