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Practice of Contemporary Dance Improves Cognitive Flexibility in Aging

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  • CNS-Fed - The Neuropsychological Laboratory

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As society ages and frequency of dementia increases exponentially, counteracting cognitive aging decline is a challenging issue for countries of the developed world. Previous studies have suggested that physical fitness based on cardiovascular and strength training helps to improve attentional control in normal aging. However, how motor activity based on motor-skill learning can also benefit attentional control with age has been hitherto a neglected issue. This study examined the impact of contemporary dance (CD) improvisation on attentional control of older adults, as compared to two other motor training programs, fall prevention and Tai Chi Chuan. Participants performed setting, suppressing, and switching attention tasks before and after 5.7-month training in either CD or fall prevention or Tai Chi Chuan. Results indicated that CD improved switching but not setting or suppressing attention. In contrast, neither fall prevention nor Tai Chi Chuan showed any effect. We suggest that CD improvisation works as a training for change, inducing plasticity in flexible attention.
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AGING NEUROSCIENC
E
ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
published: 20 September 2011
doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2011.00013
Practice of contemporary dance improves cognitive
flexibility in aging
Olivier A. Coubard 1*, Stéphanie Duretz1, Virginie Lefebvre1, Pauline Lapalus2and Lena Ferrufino1,3
1The Neuropsychological Laboratory, CNS-Fed, Paris, France
2Centre Mémoire de Ressources et de Recherche Paris Nord, Groupe Hospitalier Lariboisière-Fernand Widal, Paris, France
3Groupe de Recherche Apprentissage et Contexte, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France
Edited by:
Rudy Castellani, University of
Maryland, Baltimore, USA
Reviewed by:
Luis Francisco Gonzalez-Cuyar,
University of Maryland School of
Medicine, USA
Fabio Tavora, University of Maryland
School of Medicine, USA
Jonathon Edward Heath, University of
Maryland Medical Center, USA
*Correspondence:
Olivier A. Coubard , The
Neuropsychological Laboratory,
CNS-Fed, 39 rue Meaux 75019 Paris,
France.
e-mail: olivier.coubard@cns-fed.com
As society ages and frequency of dementia increases exponentially, counteracting cog-
nitive aging decline is a challenging issue for countries of the developed world. Previous
studies have suggested that physical fitness based on cardiovascular and strength training
helps to improve attentional control in normal aging. However, how motor activity based
on motor-skill learning can also benefit attentional control with age has been hitherto a
neglected issue. This study examined the impact of contemporary dance (CD) improvi-
sation on attentional control of older adults, as compared to two other motor training
programs, fall prevention andTai Chi Chuan. Participants performed setting, suppressing,
and switching attention tasks before and after 5.7-month training in either CD or fall pre-
vention or Tai Chi Chuan. Results indicated that CD improved switching but not setting or
suppressing attention. In contrast, neither fall prevention nor Tai Chi Chuan showed any
effect. We suggest that CD improvisation works as a training for change, inducing plasticity
in flexible attention.
Keywords: aging, attentional control, motor activity, contemporary dance, improvisation, plasticity
INTRODUCTION
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the aging
of cognitive processes and of their neural underlying mechanisms.
While some studies have pointed out cognitive improvements with
age (Tentori et al., 2001), most of them have reported a decline in
functions such as perception (Blake et al., 2008), memory (Lister
and Barnes, 2009), or motor behavior (Hsiao-Wecksler, 2008).
Nevertheless, neural networks and cognitive processes do not
evolve uniformly in normal aging. Consistent with a precocious
decline of prefrontal areas of the brain (Rajah and D’Esposito,
2005;Raz and Rodrigue, 2006), executive functions show earlier
and larger decline than other functions in older adults (Bherer
et al., 2004). Executive functions, the mental capacities for for-
mulating goals, planning how to achieve them, and carrying out
the plans effectively, include a wide variety of functions such as
volition, planning, purposive action, and effective performance
(Lezak, 1995). To avoid confusion, we use the terms “attentional
control” to restrict executive functions to their attentional dimen-
sion (Coubard et al., 2011). Attentional control is the ability to
maintain goal-directedness by sustaining information-processing
activity over time in the face of distraction, temporarily stopping
the activity to respond to other information, and coordinating the
course of concurrent activities (Parasuraman, 2000). Stuss and
colleagues have described seven tasks of attentional control (con-
centrating, setting, preparing, sustaining, suppressing, switching,
and sharing), which involve six cognitive processes (energizing,
inhibiting, adjusting, monitoring, controlling, and task setting),
for which the prefrontal correlate has been identified in at least
three of them: superior medial for energizing, left lateral for task
setting, and right lateral for monitoring (Stuss et al., 1995;Stuss
and Alexander, 2007). In normal aging, a deficit has been reported
for almost all tasks of the prefrontal attentional system: setting
(Bugg et al., 2006;Zook et al., 2006), preparing (Bherer and
Belleville, 2004;Vallesi et al., 2009;Coubard et al., 2011), sustain-
ing (Rypma et al., 2007), suppressing (Verhaeghen and Cerella,
2002;Amieva et al., 2004;Coubard et al., 2011), switching (Ashen-
dorf et al., 2008;Sorel and Pennequin, 2008;Coubard et al.,2011),
and sharing (Verhaeghen and Cerella, 2002;Chaparro et al., 2005).
Given the importance of attentional control in all cognitive func-
tions, these deficits are likely to have deleterious impact in daily
activities of older adults (Vaughan and Giovanello, 2010). In this
context, it is urgent to develop strategies to prevent attentional
control decline and preserve independent living for a successful
aging (Hank, 2011).
Several cognitive and physical interventions have been designed
to target attentional control in older adults with beneficial effects.
Using a dual-task paradigm, Bherer et al. (2005, 2006, 2008)
showed that cognitive training could substantially improve time-
sharing skills of older adults. Nevertheless, older adults as com-
pared to young ones are less likely to bypass the central bottle-
neck, i.e., to automatize (Maquestiaux et al., 2008, 2010), consis-
tent with higher training-induced recruitment of the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; Erickson et al., 2007;Mozolic et al.,
2010). Since the pioneer research by Spirduso (1975), physical
interventions have also been found to benefit cognition. Specif-
ically, several studies have shown that physical fitness, based on
cardiovascular and/or strength conditioning, can have indirect
beneficial impact on cognition, particularly attentional control
(for reviews, see Kramer et al., 2005;Kramer et al., 2006;Schäfer
et al., 2006;Kramer and Erickson, 2007;Hillman et al., 2008). In
Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience www.frontiersin.org September 2011 | Volume 3 | Article 13 | 1
Reference: Coubard, O. A., Duretz, S., Lefebvre, V., Lapalus, P., & Ferrufino, L. (2011).
Practice of contemporary dance improves cognitive flexibility in aging. Frontiers in
Aging Neuroscience, 3, 13.
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