"Dance training is superior to repetitive physical exercise in inducing brain plasticity in the elderly"

For the present exploratory study, we designed an especially challenging dance program in which our elderly participants constantly had to learn novel and increasingly difficult choreographies. This six-month-long program was compared to conventional fitness training matched for intensity.

Both interventions increased physical fitness to the same extent. Pronounced differences were seen in the effects on brain volumes: Dancing compared to conventional fitness activity led to larger volume increases in more brain areas, including the cingulate cortex, insula, corpus callosum and sensorimotor cortex. Only dancing was associated with an increase in plasma BDNF levels. Regarding cognition, both groups improved in attention and spatial memory, but no significant group differences emerged. The latter finding may indicate that cognitive benefits may develop later and after structural brain changes have taken place. The present results recommend our challenging dance program as an effective measure to counteract detrimental effects of aging on the brain.

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I’ve been saying this hypothesis should be tested for a good 10 years. Exercise like stationary bicycles are fine but I always felt that the fact that the coordination requirements are relatively low could be leaving something on the table in terms of brain benefits.

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