Dancing helps you think

Professionally I’m interested in why certain old people age with grace whereas others suffer from cognitive problems at a relatively young age. Not only do I use neuroimaging techniques to find out how certain elderly can compensate functionally for the degradation of grey matter and the loss of white matter connectivity, but I am also interested in how we could help people put to good use the brain capacity that they still have. In my spare time I have been an amateur ballet dancer since I was 4 years old and I have always enjoyed it very much. A recent publication in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience attracted my attention because it appealed to these two interests of mine. Apparently, elderly who have practiced amateur dancing for 16.5 years on average performed much better on physical and mental activities than education-, gender- and age-matched controls who did not do any dancing or sports. The difference was due to the dancing group lacking any individuals showing poor performance, whereas these were frequently present in the control group. So it appears that dancing helps you preserve your mental and physical capacities. Another motivation to keep my ballet dancing up!

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