Submerged in Research

Rhea R -

Welcome Back!

I’ve been continuing with my background research before my data collection week begins. Here’s a brief summary:

Dancers are known to be kinaesthetic thinkers, and are able to successfully replicate a series of movements they watch through a strong proprioception and kinaesthesia. Proprioception is defined as dealing with balance, alignment, and aesthetic appeal. Kinaesthesia deals with the memorization of certain moves. 

So in order to effectively make the transition between certain moves and execute the performance on stage without much conscious thought, your body harnesses what’s known as mechanoreceptors. These fire with mechanical (meaning movement) stimuli and are found in your muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and skin. The muscle spindle, Golgi Tendon Organ, Ruffini corpuscles and nerve endings detect intra and extra personal sensations of movement and absorb peripheral input. This then enters the spinal cord and mediates spinal reflexes to carry the information to the subcortical and cortical regions of the brain. The cortex of the brain is responsible for recognizing joint positions (proprioception) and movement (kinaesthesia). Once it receives messages from the 4 proprioceptors, it can then send out signals to help maintain equilibrium. 

Ever wonder how you can walk across a dark room and still know which foot (the right or left) is in front? Proprioception aids with recognizing where your body is in space without having to rely on a visual stimulus. The mechanoreceptors on muscles aid in sensing self-movement and body position and then drive this information up to the brain through the central nervous system. For example, when the elbow is contracted, the sensory fibers in the arm muscle spindle record how tight the stretch is and how long it takes the muscle to move that much. Once the brain is made aware of what position your arm is in, it lets you know through proprioceptive feedback how much your joint is bent. The Golgi Tendon then detects the tension placed on the muscle and increased skeletal muscle force equals higher GTO 7 activity. Once the brain has gathered all this information, it can generate the appropriate response. This is why our brains can sense position without visual senses, because it can use the length of muscle fibers. Dance teachers play into this trait by asking you to “feel the movement” rather than stare at yourself in that position in the mirror.

Since kinaesthesia is more behavioral, this is where practice comes in. When a new dance move is learned, the body registers how your muscles are moving. Over time, the body has been undergoing this same move over again, so that it becomes more involuntary over time. This is why practice is key for dancers looking to achieve success. Also, proper technique must be stressed, since integrating the wrong movement into the motor memory will make it increasingly harder to correct with repetition. 

Thank you for reading! I’m intrigued by what happens to the brain and body while learning a dance on a physiological level and can’t wait to continue researching!

  • Rhea 🙂

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    Hi Rhea! I love the research you have been doing. Have you had any luck with getting a participant group for your choreography? Also, I'm interested in how looking at yourself in the mirror helps with muscle memory. You discussed the importance of proprioception, and body awareness without visual cues, but how do the visual cues come into play?

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