While the beneficial effects of music have been known to science for years, new research out of Concordia University shows that getting down and dancing can improve cognitive skills.

“Dancers have more broader connections between brain regions, probably more extended brain regions,” said Chiara Giacosa, a PhD student and lead author of the new study. “We think that there might be a generally better brain health improvement.”

The researchers found that, like music, dancing can improve some brain functions but in very different ways.

“Because dancers train more parts of the body, there are more regions that are really connected, whereas musicians train one specific place like (their hands), so that’s just in this specific region,” said Giacosa.

The research could have a major impact for other fields of study, said Concordia’s department of psychology chair Virginia Penhune.

“We’re hoping to develop dance interventions with kids who have movement problems,” she said. “There’s also an idea that we can use this with autism.”

The new study is timely as Les Grand Ballets Canadiens has announced plans to open the first dance therapy centre in the world next year.

“They walk better, or they have a better sense of balance,” said the ballet’s executive director Alain Dancyger. “Be it neurological or people who are physically handicapped or mentally, or even people with anorexia or autism, we touch on all those pathologies.”