Dance Experience and Associations with Cortical Gray Matter Thickness in the Aging Population

Shai Porat, Naira Goukasian, Kristy S. Hwang, Theodore Zanto, Triet Do, Jonathan Pierce, Shantanu Joshi, Ellen Woo, Liana G. Apostolova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Introduction: We investigated the effect dance experience may have on cortical gray matter thickness and cognitive performance in elderly participants with and without mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Methods: 39 cognitively normal and 48 MCI elderly participants completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime experience with music, dance, and song. Participants identified themselves as either dancers or nondancers. All participants received structural 1.5-tesla MRI scans and detailed clinical and neuropsychological evaluations. An advanced 3D cortical mapping technique was then applied to calculate cortical thickness. Results: Despite having a trend-level significantly thinner cortex, dancers performed better in cognitive tasks involving learning and memory, such as the California Verbal Learning Test-II (CVLT-II) short delay free recall (p = 0.004), the CVLT-II long delay free recall (p = 0.003), and the CVLT-II learning over trials 1-5 (p = 0.001). Discussion: Together, these results suggest that dance may result in an enhancement of cognitive reserve in aging, which may help avert or delay MCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-517
Number of pages10
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 9 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cortical thickness
  • Dancing
  • Dementia
  • Gray matter thickness
  • MRI
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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