Take the world-renowned National Ballet School (NBS) in Canada, add a dancing program for people with Parkinson's and top it off with a research study from York and Ryerson Universities. What do you get? "Dancing with Parkinson's" -- part community exercise program and part research project featured in the award-winning documentary short, Synapse Dance.
Parkinson's research has increasingly demonstrated the importance of exercise to manage the motor symptoms (such as tremor and stiffness) and non-motor symptoms (such as constipation and anxiety) commonly experienced with Parkinson's disease (PD). But does dance, in particular, have specific benefits for the PD community?
Researchers from the "Dancing with Parkinson's" program are hoping to answer this question by better understanding how dance affects the brain of people with Parkinson's. Neuroscientists conducted brain scans of program volunteers and asked them to visualize their dance routines while listening to music. The scans showed how the various parts of the brain -- auditory, motor and visual -- work in concert while dancing and how this synchronization may allow PD patients to temporarily "cheat" some of the symptoms of the disease.
Preliminary results are positive and demonstrate that program participants are seeing improvements in gait and balance. Scientists hope that their work can inform additional research into the disease. Watch the full documentary below and learn more about exercise and Parkinson's disease.