Text by Rick McVicar
Dancers sway in fluid movement wearing skull caps while a researcher monitors the waves of brain cells inside the dancers’ heads.
No, it is not a science fiction video. It is a video of a real performance, LiveWire, which premiered in Houston on Jan. 21 and 22, according to a website sponsored by the University of Houston.
Laurie Fickman, in “’Your Brain on Dance’ Waltzes into Theater,” Jan. 19, 2022, previewed the performance for the university.
“LiveWire explores the latest neuroscience discoveries with each of its five movements showcasing a different process of the human brain,” Fickman writes.
The show features string ensembles and dancers choreographed to mimic the actions of neurons and pathways found in brain activity. Meanwhile, researchers keep track of data coming from EEG skull caps worn by performers. The skull caps provide images of performers’ brains for researchers to study at the university’s BRAIN Center, Building Reliable Advances and Innovations in Neurotechnology.
The show is headed to the International Workshop on the Neural and Social Bases of Creative Movement from April 7-10 at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Va. A LiveWire video can be found on the workshop’s website.
The dance and brain research project began at the University of Maryland, according to “Your Brain on Dance,” found on a university website, The Clarice. The project was created by Karen Kohn Bradley, a theater professor, and Jose Contreras-Vidal, an engineering professor.
They were both “curious about the effects that dancing has on the brain,” according to The Clarice.
The efforts of the two professors resulted in true works of art being performed while furthering brain research.
"The neural symphony of expressive movement ... explores ways in which movement changes the brain," The Clarice notes.
Results from the study are expected to benefit recovery from physical injuries as well as helping with neurological health. The fields of robotics and animation will be enhanced as well, The Clarice states.
Contreras-Vidal has since moved to Houston, where the professor continues to lead the dance and brain project.
According to the workshop website, the University of Maryland remains as a contributing partner. The two universities are sponsoring the workshop along with the National Endowment of the Arts Research Lab and the National Institutes of Health. Several other universities and research facilities are involved as well
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