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Steven Brown and Lawrence M Parsons (2008)

The neuroscience of dance

Scientific American, 299(1):78-83.

Key concepts

  • Dance is a fundamental form of human expression that likely evolved together with music as a way of generating rhythm.
  • It requires specialized mental skills. One brain area houses a representation of the body's orientation, helping to direct our movements through space; another serves as a synchronizer of sorts, enabling us to pace our actions to music.
  • Unconscious entrainment—the process that causes us to absentmindedly tap our feet to a beat—reflects our instinct for dance. It occurs when certain subcortical brain regions converse, bypassing higher auditory areas.