Get up and boogie

Dancing enhances pleasure of listening to music, research shows

Published: 11 December 2017

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.



Back to top