Neurological implications and neuropsychological considerations on folk music and dance

Prog Brain Res. 2015;217:187-205. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2014.11.027. Epub 2015 Jan 31.


Neurological and neuropsychological aspects of folk music and traditional dance have been poorly investigated by historical and scientific literature. Some of these performances could be indeed the manifestation of latent pathological conditions or the expression of liberation rituals. This chapter aimed at analyzing the relationships between traditional dance, folk music, and neurological and psychiatric disorders. Since ancient times, dance has been used in the individual or collective as treatment of some diseases, including epilepsy and movement disorders (dyskinesia, chorea, etc.). Dionysia in Ancient Greece, St. Vitus dance in the Middle Age, tarantism and other traditional dances of southern Italy and of non-Western countries might be credited as curative rituals of these neurological and psychiatric conditions. During the nineteenth century, dance was also used for the treatment of psychiatric patients; the relationship between dance and insanity could also be reflected in classical ballets and music of that period. Nowadays, neuropsychiatric manifestations could also be evidenced in modern dances (mass fainting at rock concerts, flash mobs); some ballroom dances are commonly used for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from neurodegenerative and psychiatric conditions. Interdisciplinary research on these subjects (ethnomusicology and cultural anthropology, clinical neurology and dynamic psychology, neuroradiology and neurophysiology, and socioneurology and neuromusicology) should be increased.

Keywords: St. Vitus dance; ballet; chorea; choreomania; dyskinesia; flash mob; folk dance; folk music; tarantism; tics.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dancing* / history
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / history
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Music* / history
  • Nervous System Diseases / history
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*