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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Dance training: The ultimate way to delay brain decline by combining physical, cognitive, and social engagement

Study: Danc­ing may off­set some effects of aging in the brain (CSU release):

A new study led by a Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty researcher shows that kick­ing up your heels can actu­al­ly be good for your nog­gin.

The research team demon­strat­ed for the first time that decline in the brain’s “white mat­ter” can be detect­ed over a peri­od of only six months in healthy aging adults — faster than most stud­ies have shown. On the bright side, a group of test sub­jects who par­tic­i­pat­ed in dance class­es dur­ing that time actu­al­ly saw improved white mat­ter integri­ty in an area of the brain relat­ed to mem­o­ry and pro­cess­ing speed.

Old­er adults often ask how they can keep their brain healthy,” said lead researcher Aga Burzyn­s­ka. “Dance may end up being one way to do that for the white mat­ter.” Burzyn­s­ka, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor in CSU’s Depart­ment of Human Devel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Stud­ies, and her fel­low researchers found that dance train­ing — per­haps because it incor­po­rates exer­cise, social inter­ac­tion and learn­ing — appeared to have a pos­i­tive effect…“Our brain does age, maybe faster than we pre­vi­ous­ly thought, but it seems that there are things we do that can mod­u­late it,” she said. “The lifestyle that peo­ple choose can pre­dict the decline.”

The Study

White Mat­ter Integri­ty Declined Over 6‑Months, but Dance Inter­ven­tion Improved Integri­ty of the Fornix of Old­er Adults (Fron­tiers in Aging Neu­ro­science). From the abstract:

  • Degen­er­a­tion of cere­bral white mat­ter (WM), or struc­tur­al dis­con­nec­tion, is one of the major neur­al mech­a­nisms dri­ving age-relat­ed decline in cog­ni­tive func­tions, such as pro­cess­ing speed. Past cross-sec­tion­al stud­ies have demon­strat­ed ben­e­fi­cial effects of greater car­diores­pi­ra­to­ry fit­ness, phys­i­cal activ­i­ty, cog­ni­tive train­ing, social engage­ment, and nutri­tion on cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and brain health in aging. Here, we col­lect­ed dif­fu­sion mag­net­ic res­o­nance (MRI) imag­ing data from 174 old­er (age 60–79) adults to study the effects of 6‑months lifestyle inter­ven­tions on WM integri­ty. Healthy but low-active par­tic­i­pants were ran­dom­ized into Dance, Walk­ing, Walk­ing + Nutri­tion, and Active Con­trol (stretch­ing and ton­ing) inter­ven­tion groups…we observed a decline in WM integri­ty across the major­i­ty of brain regions in all par­tic­i­pants, regard­less of the inter­ven­tion group. This sug­gests that the aging of the brain is detectable on the scale of 6‑months, which high­lights the urgency of find­ing effec­tive inter­ven­tions to slow down this process…Together, our find­ings sug­gest that com­bin­ing phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive, and social engage­ment (dance) may help main­tain or improve WM health and more phys­i­cal­ly active lifestyle is asso­ci­at­ed with slow­er WM decline. This study empha­sizes the impor­tance of a phys­i­cal­ly active and social­ly engag­ing lifestyle among aging adults.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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