The Neuroscience of Dance: A Conceptual Framework and Systematic Review

Olivia Foster Vander Elst*, Nicholas H.D. Foster, Peter Vuust, Peter E. Keller, Morten L. Kringelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review


Ancient and culturally universal, dance pervades many areas of life and has multiple benefits. In this article, we provide a conceptual framework and systematic review, as a guide for researching the neuroscience of dance. We identified relevant articles following PRISMA guidelines, and summarised and evaluated all original results. We identified avenues for future research in: the interactive and collective aspects of dance; groove; dance performance; dance observation; and dance therapy. Furthermore, the interactive and collective aspects of dance constitute a vital part of the field but have received almost no attention from a neuroscientific perspective so far. Dance and music engage overlapping brain networks, including common regions involved in perception, action, and emotion. In music and dance, rhythm, melody, and harmony are processed in an active, sustained pleasure cycle giving rise to action, emotion, and learning, led by activity in specific hedonic brain networks. The neuroscience of dance is an exciting field, which may yield information concerning links between psychological processes and behaviour, human flourishing, and the concept of eudaimonia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105197
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Brain
  • Collective, interactive, and social aspects of dance
  • Communication
  • Conceptual framework
  • Dance
  • Dance imagery
  • Dance movement therapy
  • Dance observation
  • Dance performance
  • Dance therapy
  • Dance training
  • Eudaimonia
  • Groove
  • Hedonia
  • Improvisation
  • Interpersonal synchronisation
  • Motivation
  • Music
  • Musical training
  • Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Pleasure
  • Emotions
  • Learning


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