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University of Florida conducts the most comprehensive study of effects of dance on Parkinson's disease

A partnership study between the institution's Center for Arts in Medicine and Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration received support from the Parkinson Research Foundation.

The Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida College of Fine Arts has been awarded a $30,500 grant from the Parkinson Research Foundation to conduct research on the effects of dance on Parkinson’s disease.

The center’s weekly Dance for Life program is designed to help people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) improve their quality of life through enhanced physical well-being, social interaction, creative expression and targeted improvements in Parkinson’s symptoms. Such symptoms include impaired balance, strength, and mobility, cognitive impairment and language dysfunction. The award from the Parkinson Research Foundation will allow the center, in partnership with the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, to document the physical and psychosocial impact of dance on PD and ultimately facilitate the provision of this cost-effective, enjoyable intervention more widely to people living with PD.

The general hypothesis for this study is that dance, like aerobic activity, potentiates neuroplasticity, particularly in the frontal lobes, and thus enhances behavioral measures of walking ability, balance, cognition and language production in people who participate in the Dance for Life program. The UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration has recently designed a study assessing aerobic exercise under this same hypothesis. With funding from the Parkinson Research Foundation, the Center for Arts in Medicine will add a dance intervention group to this broader study, which is funded by the National Institutes on Aging (a division of the National Institutes of Health).

This study, the largest scale study of dance and Parkinson’s disease conducted anywhere, will determine whether dance can be effective in improving Parkinson’s disease severity, walking ability, balance function, cognition and/or language deficits in people with PD and compare the relative magnitude of the effects of aerobic exercise, dance and a commonly-recommended stretch exercise program on cognition and language in PD. The findings from this study may substantially advance the development of treatments for PD because they explore drug-free interventions for cognitive and language impairment that can potentially have pervasive effects on patient well-being.

For more information on the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine and the Dance For Life program, visit

Media Contacts:
Andy Howard, College of Fine Arts

Jill Sonke, UF Center for Arts in Medicine (College of Fine Arts)


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