The Neurobiology of Song and Dance: Why Creativity and Imagination Are Important for Children

The Neurobiology of Song and Dance: Why Creativity and Imagination Are Important for Children

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It’s Neuroscience! We’re Born to Sing and Dance.

Girls song and dance Sri Lanka
Girls performing traditional dance in Sri Lanka

From birth, humans are hardwired to learn tunes, give them words, and move in time to a beat. This makes us unique among mammals and allows us to express ourselves through song and dance automatically. Recently, we attended an exciting presentation in New York. Two neuroscientists, Professor Erich Jarvis of Rockefeller University, and Research Professor Constantina Theofanopoulos of Hunter College, explained how circuits in the brain, combined with our anatomical structures, all work in remarkable synchronicity to enable this ability.

The Neurobiology of Singing and Dancing

According to Dr. Jarvis and Dr. Theofanopoulos, areas in the brain that control movement and vocalization are so close together that they may be synergistic. People with Parkinson’s Disease who suffer speech deficits, are trained to dance to recover some ability to speak. It is as if song and dance are meant to go together from a neuroanatomical perspective.

The Importance of Creativity and Imagination

At CPI, we recognize that song and dance come naturally to children, and our programs encourage them to express themselves. Kids take traditional song and dance, improvise on it, and have fun by making it their own. But what’s important is that they’re being kids, dancing and singing because it’s part of their nature.

Song and Dance are Healing, Engaging Children Activities

Even if children are not great singers or dancers, they love hearing themselves and each other; they love joining together and moving to a beat. It’s individually rewarding and creates a sense of community. In stressed and fractured environments where CPi operates, such as in Haiti, Kenya, and Sri Lanka,  song and dance are a resource – not just a casual pastime. They help build resilience and provide an outlet for self-expression. Song and dance are engaging children activities that help cope with traumatic experiences and promote healing. 


We don’t need neuroscience to tell us that children love being vocal and kinetic. But it’s nice to know that CPI, a trustworthy children’s non-profit organization, has long-operating programs that empower and educate children! Professor Erich Jarvis and Constantina Theofanopoulos prove song and dance are hardwired into humans, and in sync with basic human inclinations. 

We invite neuroscientists to work with us on the ground to further explore the benefits of singing and dancing for vulnerable children. In the end, nurturing children’s creativity and imagination through song and dance can help them develop various skills while having fun and building a sense of community and wellbeing.

Rockefeller University’s slogan is “Science for the benefit of humanity” is located on the Upper East Side in NY. Founded by oil tycoon John.D Rockefeller Senior, the origins of the university lie, in part, in personal tragedy. Read the history here.

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