EFFECTS OF DANCE AND MULTIMODAL MOVEMENT TRAINING ON BRAIN PLASTICITY, COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS AND PHYSICAL FUNCTIONS IN THE ELDERLY
Hokelmann A.2, Rehfeld K.1, 2, Luders A.1, Kaufmann J.3, Muller N. G.1, 3
1German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Magdeburg, Germany,
2Institute for Sport Sciences, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany,
3University Clinic for Neurology, Magdeburg, Germany
Dancing combines cognitive, motor and social skills and therefore can be assumed to have great potential in inducing neuronal plasticity in the grey and white matter of the aging brain.
We tested this assumption by comparing the effects on brain volumes of six months of dance training vs a repetitive training of physical endurance and strength. Subjects (n = 38, age range 64‒79 y) were randomly assigned to the experimental and the control groups and were matched for age, mental and physical fitness. Magnetic resonance images were analysed at baseline and after intervention using a new method of voxel-based morphometry (VBM) especially designed for longitudinal studies.
The dance group showed a larger increase in grey matter volumes in multiple frontal and temporal regions dedicated to working memory, attention and multisensory integration. These regions are usually prone to atrophy and synaptic dysfunction in aging. Compared to dancers the sportspersons demonstrated grey matter increases only in occipital areas and the cerebellum, the latter presumably reflecting the repetitive nature of their motor exercises. The largest white matter volume change was observed in the corpus callosum of the dancers. This finding probably resulted from strengthened interhemispherical communication induced by the combination of different physical and cognitive challenges inherent in dancing.
The present results verify for the first time beneficial effects of dance training on seniors’ brain volumes and recommend dancing as an effective measure in counteracting age-related brain volume losses. The effects on physical performance parameters of both intervention programs are nearly similar. No significant differences are found.