Publication Date

April 2019


Psyche Loui


Neuroscience & Behavior


English (United States)


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with a loss of internal cueing systems, affecting rhythmic motor tasks such as walking. To address this deficit, researchers have pursued methods of supplementing rhythmic cueing in patients with PD. Rhythmic auditory stimulation has been shown to improve motor deficits in some individuals; these findings have inspired the development of dance programs for PD. In further investigating the effects of music and auditory stimulation on movement, it has been shown that musical groove is related to ease of sensorimotor coupling in a simple tapping task. We were curious to see how PD individuals attending weekly dance classes respond to differing levels of musical groove. Additionally, while PD symptoms have been shown to improve from dance therapy, it is unknown whether these effects are modulated by groove and sensorimotor experience, and if previous experience with music and dance affect these relationships. We assessed tapping to high- and low-groove songs, music and dance experience, and disease severity using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) in PD individuals before and after four months of weekly dance classes. We tested the hypothesis that groove and sensorimotor experience, as quantified by music and dance experience, affect the therapeutic outcome of dance classes for PD. We found associations between dance experience, sensorimotor coupling ability, and improvement in disease severity from baseline to four months. The presence of dance experience (>1 year of training) resulted in enhanced sensorimotor coupling ability during tapping to both high [F(1,118)=18.6, p<0.001***] and low [F(1,118)=5.98, p=0.016*] groove songs. Variability in tapping performance was negatively correlated with improvement in UPDRS scores from baseline to 4 months for high (r=-0.465, p< 0.001***) and low (r=-0.585, p<0.001***) groove songs, indicating that more accurate sensorimotor coupling was associated with greater UPDRS improvements. Furthermore, participants with dance experience also exhibited greater improvements in UPDRS scores [F(1,94)=73.4, p<0.001***]. These data suggest that dance experience predicts rhythmic movement consistency and may contribute to motor improvement following a dance intervention. Together, our findings suggest that dance and sensorimotor experience act as predictors of the therapeutic outcome of four months of dance classes for PD.



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