Get up and boogie


Dancing enhances pleasure of listening to music, research shows

Dancing spontaneously to music, rather than just listening to it, heightens the pleasure we experience, according to Montreal-based researchers.  

Nicolò Bernardi, of McGill University and Antoine Bellemare-Pepin and Prof. Isabelle Peretz of Université de Montréal tested 40 university students with no formal dance training while they listened to and then moved to “groovy” and “non- groovy” music. The researchers, who are also affiliated with the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS), combined three sources of information in their analysis; questionnaires to rate the intensity of emotions; infrared motion capture to record body movement, and recordings of participants’ electrocardiogram and respiratory rate.

Their takeaway:

  • Dance changes the emotional experience of listening to music.
  • We experience more pleasure when we let our body spontaneously move with the music, compared to listening without engaging the motor system.This is particularly true for “groovy” music with upbeat rhythms -- less so for slow, meditative music.
  • The findings, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, add to evidence of a link between the brain’s auditory and motor systems, in response to music. “It seems that dancing enables us to enhance our positive emotions, and may be a powerful ally in coping with stress,” says Bernardi, who completed the work while a postdoctoral fellow at BRAMS and McGill.  

“Enhancement of pleasure during spontaneous dance,” Nicolò F. Bernardi, Antoine Bellemare-Pepin, and Isabelle Peretz, Frontiers of Human Neuroscience published November 29, 2017.



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Cynthia Lee
McGill University
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