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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by Academic Studies Press October 1, 2017

Movement is the Song of the Body: Reflections on the Evolution of Rhythm and Music and its Possible Significance for the Treatment of Parkinson's Disease

  • Adrian D. Meehan , Benjamin W. Abbott and Matz Larsson


Schooling fish, swarms of starlings, plodding wildebeest, and musicians all display impressive synchronization. To what extent do they use acoustic cues to achieve these feats? Could the acoustic cues used in movement synchronization be relevant to the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD) in humans? In this article, we build on the emerging view in evolutionary biology that the ability to synchronize movement evolved long before language, in part due to acoustic advantages. We use this insight to explore potential mechanisms that explain why music therapy has beneficial effects for PD patients. We hypothesize that rhythmic auditory cues, particularly music, can stimulate neuronal and behavioral processes that ease the symptoms and potentially the causes of PD because the neural circuits used in auditory entrainment at individual and group levels are associated with dopamine production. We summarize current treatment of PD and outline how new insights from an evolutionary perspective could improve understanding and eventual treatment of movement disorders in humans.

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Published Online: 2017-10-01
Published in Print: 2017-10-01

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