The influence of sensorimotor experience on the aesthetic evaluation of dance across the life span

Prog Brain Res. 2018;237:291-316. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.03.012. Epub 2018 May 3.


Understanding how action perception, embodiment, and emotion interact is essential for advancing knowledge about how we perceive and interact with each other in a social world. One tool that has proved particularly useful in the past decade for exploring the relationship between perception, action, and affect is dance. Dance is, in its essence, a rich and multisensory art form that can be used to help answer not only basic questions about social cognition but also questions concerning how aging shapes the relationship between action perception, and the role played by affect, emotion, and aesthetics in social perception. In the present study, we used a 1-week physical and visual dance training paradigm to instill varying degrees of sensorimotor experience among non-dancers from three distinct age groups (early adolescents, young adults, and older adults). Our aim was to begin to build an understanding of how aging influences the relationship between action embodiment and affective (or aesthetic) value, at both brain and behavioral levels. On balance, our results point toward a similar positive effect of sensorimotor training on aesthetic evaluations across the life span on a behavioral level, but to rather different neural substrates supporting implicit aesthetic judgment of dance movements at different life stages. Taken together, the present study contributes valuable first insights into the relationship between sensorimotor experience and affective evaluations across ages, and underscores the utility of dance as a stimulus and training intervention for addressing key questions relevant to human neuroscience as well as the arts and humanities.

Keywords: Affective judgment; Aging; Dance; Embodiment; Life span; Neuroaesthetics; Sensorimotor experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Dancing*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Esthetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen