Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

topic posted Mon, December 4, 2006 - 9:23 PM by  Kristel
Bear with me on this one....

I discovered an interesting Nova ScienceNOW feature about how our brains work empathetically, and how they copy what other people feel/do... i.e. when you're watching a football game and responding to it, your brain fires in the same way as if you were actually playing the game.

The parallels to watching live dance, dance dvds, and the emotional response dancers have to other dancers seem to follow.

Take a look! Tell me what y'all think...
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  • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

    Mon, December 4, 2006 - 9:40 PM
    that is fascinating! There actually was an article actually related to dance at that site (don't know if you saw that one). The idea that watching someone do something that you are already an expert at is nearly the same as doing it yourself? Amazing! So what you ladies have been intuitively telling injured fellow dancers (i.e. practice what you can and watch dance videos) has been spot on advice.

    On a non dance note... People who are immobilized for long periods of time due to injury often have to learn to walk again, this technology might help shorten the learning period in such (and similar) cases.

    Great article Kristel! Thanks for sharing
    • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

      Mon, December 4, 2006 - 9:49 PM
      I'm working through the rest of the videos right now. Since I'm stuck at work I'm using the time to catch up on my internet video watching. There are usually really great ones at both the Nova site and for frontline (

      It was fascinating for me how it confirmed what we do in practice, how watching a drummer's hands can make you a better drummer, how watching a dancer and give your brain mental practice sessions.

      I also found the little bit about autism very promising – I hope the research leads to some breakthroughs in that area.
    • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

      Tue, December 5, 2006 - 3:03 PM
      Abs-olutely! (oh, is that a bellydance pun?)

      That's why I don't recommend watching bad technique...or dancers' videos that you really don't want to emulate. Even without practicing it, one can pick up "bad habits".

  • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

    Tue, December 5, 2006 - 7:10 AM
    I went to a show recently to see some tribal dancers and even though im still a beginner i found myself inadvertantly tightening my muscles in my stomach and leaning over ...nothing big, very subtle, sometimes i'd like just twitch suddenlyt, but it was like my body was responding to what I was looking at as though I was doing it. it was weird.
  • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

    Mon, December 11, 2006 - 7:10 AM
    Cool! This sounds a lot like the research done on athletes and dancers showing that simply visualizing movement makes your brain work like actually doing it. I use visualization in my own practice a lot - and it helps!
    • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

      Mon, December 11, 2006 - 10:47 AM
      Thanks for posting this link. I've just posted a question in a similar vein for teachers and students about learning and mirrors and neuro-pathways on the tribal belly dance tribe. If you have experience with Learning Differences either as a therapist or as a dancer please go there and post. Thankyou so much.
  • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

    Mon, December 11, 2006 - 5:23 PM
    Very interesting info. Thanks for posting it. Maybe this is why I watch dance videos over & over, regular speed & slow motion....
    • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

      Mon, December 11, 2006 - 10:18 PM
      That is really interesting. I can definately see how that makes sense.

      In a similar line of thought it seems like you could use attachments to skills that you have and transfer them to new skill sets as well.

      I use alot of guided imagery in my explanations when I am teaching to help create a fantasy that students can call to mind to help them create muscle memory. It also helps gain a sense of the kinestetic space around the body. In the same way they explain the ideas in the article on dancers, using images from every day events that you are a master at doing might be part of the key to why they help you learn new but related moves.

      I read a few interesting books you might like, dynamic alignment through imagery and dance imagery for technique and performance.
  • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

    Wed, December 13, 2006 - 3:26 PM
    Here's another post where they take the idea behind the Mirror Neurons and apply it to the idea that no matter what you are watching happen, your brain is recreating it in your understanding it.
    A quote as: We learn from watching others. We learn from imitating (mirroring) others. The potential problem, though, is that these neurons go happily about their business of imitating others without our conscious intention.

    This also intimates that dancers that not only dance poorly should not be watched by those who want to dance well, but that attitudes that are poor should not be listened to or allowed near you, as well as ethics and other issues.

    So, this has implications far beyond just watching dancers performance, but also their behavior - or anyone's behavior. This brings up a whole different area for contention...can one actually segregate between dancers because they are a bad influence or due to bad behavior in the community?
    • Unsu...

      Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

      Thu, December 14, 2006 - 10:45 AM
      Hi Lane,

      I think the article that you posted is interesting, but I think we need to be careful when non-scientists interpret scientific information.

      The mirror motor neuron pathways are cool, they are sexy, but they are also getting a lot of people a lot of grant money. I mean people are probably putting a little bit more faith into them than they deserve.

      My intrepretation of the mirror motor neurons is this: it makes sense that similar neurons would be used to intrepret action as to do action. It would be costly and inefficient to do it otherwise. but I am not so sure that intrepreting how a hand moving in space can be extended to the idea that people will be some how become brain washed if they spend too much "unconscious" time observing others behaving or performing poorly. Even though these actions happen without our awareness that does not mean that we cannot be conscious actors on our own emotions and actions.

      In short, there is a lot happening neurologicaly when the brain interprets or performs an action, emotion, or behavior. mirror neurons are a very interesting, but only small part.

      • Re: Mirror Neurons & Bellydance

        Thu, December 14, 2006 - 4:34 PM
        Definitely a good perspective, Nicole. I completely agree.

        I admire that the Nova video is careful, especially with the examples of autistic children, to say “we don’t know this for sure” and “may” and “if” and takes the perspective that it is a small piece of a puzzle, and that the scientists are making some leaps to certain conclusions that they now have to try to prove or disprove with additional study.

        The beauty of being human is that we are capable of analytical thought - accessing a situation and interpreting it, then choosing how we react as opposed to just working instinctively.

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