Shall We Dance? Dancing Modulates Executive Functions and Spatial Memory

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 17;17(6):1960. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17061960.


Background: Aging is generally considered to be related to physical and cognitive decline. This is especially prominent in the frontal and parietal lobes, underlying executive functions and spatial memory, respectively. This process could be successfully mitigated in certain ways, such as through the practice of aerobic sports. With regard to this, dancing integrates physical exercise with music and involves retrieval of complex sequences of steps and movements creating choreographies.

Methods: In this study, we compared 26 non-professional salsa dancers (mean age 55.3 years, age-range 49-70 years) with 20 non-dancers (mean age 57.6 years, age-range 49-70 years) by assessing two variables: their executive functions and spatial memory performance.

Results: results showed that dancers scored better that non-dancers in our tests, outperforming controls in executive functions-related tasks. Groups did not differ in spatial memory performance.

Conclusions: This work suggests that dancing can be a valid way of slowing down the natural age-related cognitive decline. A major limitation of this study is the lack of fitness assessment in both groups. In addition, since dancing combines multiple factors like social contact, aerobic exercise, cognitive work with rhythms, and music, it is difficult to determine the weight of each variable.

Keywords: aging; hippocampus; neuropsychology; sport; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Dancing*
  • Executive Function
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spatial Memory
  • Sports*