BHARATANATYAM AND BRAIN

Dance, like any other form of exercise, influences our overall well-being. Dance not only gradually builds up our stamina and enhances our productivity, it also improves our blood circulation as well as supply of nutrients to the individual cells.

These positive influences apply to the Measure of the brain. Specifically to the brain and have been even concretely proven in practice. For example, it has been shown that arteriosclerosis can be prevented and, consequently, the risk for stroke can be reduced drastically.

Constructive changes that are more specifically associated to Bharatanatyam have also been documented. For instance, in the past decades it was strongly refuted by the neurologists that the brain is capable of increasing in volume with advancing years/age. However, in recent years this has indeed been validated as a real event by magnetic resonance imaging. This growing volume of brain is partly explainable through formation of new synapses, new pathways as well as through formation of new cells.

bharatanatyam and brainWhich parts of the brain are particularly stimulated in bharatanatyam? First and foremost, it is the motor cortex because this is the region in our brain that is directly involved in learning and training new patterns of movements. Simultaneously, other cortical regions that interpret sensory information are also stimulated. New patterns of movement generate novel sensations in the mind that eventually lead to a more refined body consciousness.

Hereby, the cerebellum, a region in our brain that facilitates coordination and refinement of our motoric control, is particularly stimulated due to the complex and unusual forms of movement specific for bharatanatyam. Eventually and over time, the brain stem (Hippocampus) is activated in a so-called "habituation" process where each newly learned pattern progresses from the short-term to the long-term memory.

In addition, the pituitary gland (hypophysis) is also stimulated by the the intense body movements. Of note, hypophysis is responsible for the secretion of several hormones. Among others, endorphins (endogenous opioids), endocannabinoids (akin to hashish ingredient THC), adrenaline as well as noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin (the latter two are alternatively known as "happiness" and "mood" hormones) are constantly formed and distributed. However, in the process of dancing the frontal lobe – a part of our brain responsible for thinking and pondering - is shut down. This simply implies that as other regions of our brain become increasingly active, the frontal lobe takes a break.

As a direct consequence of sustained development of responsiveness, our concentration and perseverance also improve over time. Furthermore, associative learning and imaginative faculties are promoted and these signify an improvement of sensory perception as well as problem-solving skills. Added to these benefits, our spatial orientation and cognitive capacity also increases (translated intelligence!). In conclusion, bharatanatyam not only makes us physically fitter and more productive, it also contributes immensely to our overall happiness and intelligence.

Dr. Reinhold Keuler, MD specialist for Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy.
(Translation: Dr. Sarika Sharma, University of Heidelberg)

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Alexandra Romanova - e-mail: dance(at)alexromanova.com