Dance Training Shapes Action Perception and Its Neural Implementation within the Young and Older Adult Brain

Neural Plast. 2018 Jul 12;2018:5459106. doi: 10.1155/2018/5459106. eCollection 2018.


How we perceive others in action is shaped by our prior experience. Many factors influence brain responses when observing others in action, including training in a particular physical skill, such as sport or dance, and also general development and aging processes. Here, we investigate how learning a complex motor skill shapes neural and behavioural responses among a dance-naïve sample of 20 young and 19 older adults. Across four days, participants physically rehearsed one set of dance sequences, observed a second set, and a third set remained untrained. Functional MRI was obtained prior to and immediately following training. Participants' behavioural performance on motor and visual tasks improved across the training period, with younger adults showing steeper performance gains than older adults. At the brain level, both age groups demonstrated decreased sensorimotor cortical engagement after physical training, with younger adults showing more pronounced decreases in inferior parietal activity compared to older adults. Neural decoding results demonstrate that among both age groups, visual and motor regions contain experience-specific representations of new motor learning. By combining behavioural measures of performance with univariate and multivariate measures of brain activity, we can start to build a more complete picture of age-related changes in experience-dependent plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dancing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Young Adult