The neuronal processes underlying dance observation have been the focus of an increasing number of brain imaging studies over the past decade. However, the existing literature mainly dealt with effects of motor and visual expertise, whereas the neural and cognitive mechanisms that underlie the interpretation of dance choreographies remained unexplored. Hence, much attention has been given to the Action Observation Network (AON) whereas the role of other potentially relevant neuro-cognitive mechanisms such as mentalizing (theory of mind) or language (narrative comprehension) in dance understanding is yet to be elucidated. We report the results of an fMRI study where the structural coherence of short contemporary dance choreographies was manipulated parametrically using the same taped movement material. Our participants were all trained dancers. The whole-brain analysis argues that the interpretation of structurally coherent dance phrases involves a subpart (Superior Parietal) of the AON as well as mentalizing regions in the dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex. An ROI analysis based on a similar study using linguistic materials (Pallier et al. 2011) suggests that structural processing in language and dance might share certain neural mechanisms.
Bachrach, A., Jola, C., & Christophe, P. (2016). Neuronal bases of structural coherence in contemporary dance observation. NeuroImage, 124(Part A), 464-472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.08.072