The Neural Basis of Human Dance
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Human dance was investigated with positron emission tomography to identify its systems-level organization. Three core aspects of dance were examined: entrainment, meter and patterned movement. Amateur dancers performed small-scale, cyclically repeated tango steps on an inclined surface to the beat of tango music, without visual guidance. Entrainment of dance steps to music, compared to self-pacing of movement, was supported by anterior cerebellar vermis. Movement to a regular, metric rhythm, compared to movement to an irregular rhythm, implicated the right putamen in the voluntary control of metric motion. Spatial navigation of leg movement during dance, when controlling for muscle contraction, activated the medial superior parietal lobule, reflecting proprioceptive and somatosensory contributions to spatial cognition in dance. Finally, additional cortical, subcortical and cerebellar regions were active at the systems level. Consistent with recent work on simpler, rhythmic, motor-sensory behaviors, these data reveal the interacting network of brain areas active during spatially patterned, bipedal, rhythmic movements that are integrated in dance.
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