The title of this scientific article couldn't be clearer - dancing is best at putting a brake on the brain shrinking that happens as we get older.
The big brain-shrink! It starts after we turn 30, really accelerates when we reach 60, and is quite specific to humans, suggesting it might be linked to our "un-natural" lifestyle. This means that we should be able to slow it down and maybe even reverse it.
We know that dancing increases the release of a nerve growth factor, BDNF, and many studies exist to show the positive effects of BDNF on behaviour and cognition. This study by German researchers compared 2 groups, each of 26 volunteers aged over 60, who either danced or did strength/endurance/flexibility training to the same intensity and time over a 6 month period. At the end all participants underwent cognitive and physical tests as well as MRI scans of their brains.
The nerve growth factor increased almost twice as much in the dance group as the sport group and almost all of the brain areas measured increased in volume more in the dance group than the exercise group
The scientists say that both groups increased in physical fitness, so the effects can't just be put down to fitness levels. They think that the brain plasticity comes from the constant learning of new routines that they imposed in the dance program.
What do the scientists say?
"Most outstanding was the enlargement of the corpus callosum, which carries the largest part of the commissure fibers and connects nearly all parts of the hemispheres. Hence, the corpus callosum ensures the communication between both cerebral hemispheres. Aging leads to degradation of this region, a process that has been associated with age-related loss in cognitive performance. The present findings indicate that dancing can intensify the connectivity and interaction between both cerebral hemispheres. This appears plausible given that different motor, somatosensory and cognitive areas have to communicate in order to accomplish the complex task of dancing".
The doses of dance on the Click and Dance YouTube channel are designed to provide constant challenges to keep you and your brain on your toes. Aim to try at least one new video every day, practise it several times and see the effects.
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