Let’s touch on two of my favorite approaches used in neuroscience – movement and music. Sometimes each are used separately, while at other times, music and physical movement are combined.
For our neurology patients who have suffered a stroke or have conditions of the basal ganglia, movement is a major part of their treatment regimen. For example, several of our patients with Parkinson’s disease participate in boxing programs.
Why does neurology incorporate movement so frequently? Because movement is a very healing activity for the brain. Research shows that all types of movement can change our neurobiology in positive ways. That includes activities like yoga, walking, running, lifting, tai chi, and cardio etc.
Of all forms of movement, dance holds a special place in my heart. For years I was a cheerleader for the NFL (Miami Dolphins / Philadelphia Eagles) so I am partial to this form of movement. Dance is an incredible work out for both your body and your brain. Couple dance with music (because you must have music) and additional areas of the brain will be recruited. The pleasure (reward), motor, attention, decision making, memory regions and more are activated. And activation is what we want. We want to engage the neuropathways that make us sharper, quicker, calmer, and happier.
Why Include Movement in Abuse Recovery?
Movement and dance can be extremely helpful to your recovery because it
1. Allows to brain to form new neuroconnections,
2. Activates the emotion regulation section of the brain (prefrontal cortex). This calms an overactive limbic system that may be within survival mode.
3. Releases neurochemistry that can elevate mood (e.g., serotonin; dopamine, norepinephrine). It might make you smile or even laugh!
4. Improves memory, visuospatial skills, and attention/concentration.
5. Develops/ enhances the abilities an area of the brain called the hippocampus (associated with memory & learning). This area is often negatively impacted by severe stress and conditions like PTSD (possible shrinkage). Dance can increase hippocampal volume (this is something we want.)
Added Benefits of Choreographed Dance
Choreographed dance is particularly ‘good’ at improving cognition and mood, because it requires effort and concentration to recall the steps and engages the executive control system of the brain. As you know, from my material on healing – executive control is a major player in healing symptoms of pain and stress.
Below is an upbeat, fun, dance video you might want to try.
- Don’t forget: Make sure you clear a large space so that you’re not hitting your toes on any coffee tables or knocking over any lamps. If you have any prohibiting health conditions – try a different form of movement. If this video is not your dance style or level, seek out a video best suited for you. Do not dance on any injuries. And most importantly, don’t feel you need to learn an entire routine – have fun! Just learn an 8 count. Now get to it, move that body, & heal that brain!
A favorite memory from my past…
Rhonda Freeman, PhD