Professional dancers don’t get dizzy. Why?

Do you feel dizzy sometimes when you stand up? Does a fear of falling prevent you from exploring the world more? If you are prone to dizziness, a new study has found that dancing may help improve your balance and make you less dizzy. In September 2013, researchers from Imperial College London reported on specific differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes. You don’t have to train to become a professional ballet dancer to benefit from some type of dancing.

The article is titled, “The Neuroanatomical Correlates of Training-Related Perceptuo-Reflex Uncoupling in Dancers.” The research suggests that years of training can enable dancers to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear linked to the cerebellum. The findings, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, could help to improve treatment for patients with chronic dizziness. Around one in four people experience this condition at some time in their lives.

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For this study the researchers at Imperial College London recruited 29 female ballet dancers and, as a comparison group, 20 female rowers whose age and fitness levels matched the dancers. Interestingly, most rhythmic aerobic exercise is going to be a bi-pedal motion or very linear—like rowing. It is interesting to note the benefits to proprioception and balance based in the cerebellum that is enhanced through dance.

The study volunteers were spun around in a chair in a dark room. They were asked to turn a handle in time with how quickly they felt like they were still spinning after they had stopped. The researchers also measured eye reflexes triggered by input from the vestibular organs. Later, they examined the participants’ brain structure with MRI scans.
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