Music And Movement: Toe Tapping Fun

What gets your toes tapping?

A favourite tune will do it
Have you ever been listening to the radio when one of your favourite songs starts playing, and before you know it, you are bopping to the beat, nodding your head or tapping your toes? You are not alone. Music and movement are fundamentally connected in the deepest levels of the human brain.

Music and movement early development

Research shows we begin to move to music very early in our development.  Researchers at the Institut Marques in Barcelona have shown three-dimensional images showed foetuses opening their mouths and sticking out their tongues when music was played. [1] When we grab a hold of a baby’s hands or feet and move them in time to music, we are strengthening this connection.

The music and movement connection

Researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway have determined that “people perceive and make sense of what they hear by mentally simulating the body motion thought to be involved in the making of sound.” [2] So when you tap your feet to the music, it’s actually your brain making sense of the sound. This is known as the motor theory of perception. Music lights up a complex pattern of cognitive activation across our brain, resulting in deep emotions, vivid memories, and strong urges to tap our feet.

Older adults and music

So what about older adults and the response to music? The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) convened a diverse panel of experts to examine the latest evidence on how music influences brain health. One of the conclusions reached was that listening and making music holds significant potential to support brain health as people age.

“We know that music is a powerful stimulator of the brain. It has the potential to be a critical tool to preserve and enhance brain health”, said Jacobo Mintzer, M.D., Executive Director of the Roper Saint Francis Research and Innovation Center and Governance Committee lead for this report. [3]

For older people, it will often be songs from their youth, songs that they heard at the Saturday night dances or on the radio that will get those toes tapping – the songs that formed the soundtrack of their younger years. These songs hold lifetime memories stored in the brain and released through the power of music.

Music and dementia

According to the Mayo Clinic, the right music can provide emotional and behavioural benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. It can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation. [4] Seeing a person living with dementia physically and emotionally respond to music, when so little engage them anymore, can be a moving experience. In the words of Vanessa, a lifestyle manager in an aged care residence in Queensland, “I got goosebumps when I saw one of our residents drumming his fingers in time to the music when he hasn’t spoken or reacted to anything for so long.”

That is why age-appropriate music is such a powerful means of reminiscing and a powerful therapy tool. [5] And why age-appropriate music can do far more than getting the foot tapping.

[1] https://institutomarques.com/en/scientific-area/

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303486316_Exploring_Sound-Motion_Similarity_in_Musical_Experience

[3] https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/alz.045379

[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/music-and-alzheimers/faq-20058173


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