NIH grant study explores improvisational dance for dementia

Christina Hugenschmidt, PhD
Christina E. Hugenschmidt

Researchers from Wake Forest University received a $1.5 million grant from the NIH to conduct a 3-year clinical trial on the effect of improvisational dance for dementia.

“Cognitive impairment and memory loss are among the main symptoms that bring older adults into the doctor’s office, but there are a lot of secondary symptoms that go along with them that really affect quality of life not only for the person with dementia, but also for their caregiver,” study researcher Christina E. Hugenschmidt, PhD, of Wake Forest University, said in a press release. “In addition, changes in gait and balance can result in falls, which is one of main reasons people with cognitive impairment are admitted to the hospital.”

The current study draws on findings from a pilot study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center that assessed associations between improvisational movement, gait improvement, balance and quality of life in individuals with early-stage memory loss.

Christina Soriano, MFA
Christina T. Soriano

“Our research has indicated that improvisational movement encourages creative approaches to problem solving and improved balance, mobility and overall physical confidence,” study researcher Christina T. Soriano, MFA, of Wake Forest University, said in the release.

To determine if improvisational dance improves gait and balance problems associated with cognitive impairment and memory loss, study participants will be randomly assigned to dance with social engagement, dance only, social engagement only, or no contact for 12 weeks.

“This isn’t partner dancing so it is not dependent on remembering steps,” Hugenschmidt said in the release “Caregivers also will be involved, but mostly as a way to interact with each other in a fun way rather than providing care.”

Christina Hugenschmidt, PhD
Christina E. Hugenschmidt

Researchers from Wake Forest University received a $1.5 million grant from the NIH to conduct a 3-year clinical trial on the effect of improvisational dance for dementia.

“Cognitive impairment and memory loss are among the main symptoms that bring older adults into the doctor’s office, but there are a lot of secondary symptoms that go along with them that really affect quality of life not only for the person with dementia, but also for their caregiver,” study researcher Christina E. Hugenschmidt, PhD, of Wake Forest University, said in a press release. “In addition, changes in gait and balance can result in falls, which is one of main reasons people with cognitive impairment are admitted to the hospital.”

The current study draws on findings from a pilot study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center that assessed associations between improvisational movement, gait improvement, balance and quality of life in individuals with early-stage memory loss.

Christina Soriano, MFA
Christina T. Soriano

“Our research has indicated that improvisational movement encourages creative approaches to problem solving and improved balance, mobility and overall physical confidence,” study researcher Christina T. Soriano, MFA, of Wake Forest University, said in the release.

To determine if improvisational dance improves gait and balance problems associated with cognitive impairment and memory loss, study participants will be randomly assigned to dance with social engagement, dance only, social engagement only, or no contact for 12 weeks.

“This isn’t partner dancing so it is not dependent on remembering steps,” Hugenschmidt said in the release “Caregivers also will be involved, but mostly as a way to interact with each other in a fun way rather than providing care.”