Tech UPTechnologyWonderful minds: Lawrence Parsons teaches us to dance

Wonderful minds: Lawrence Parsons teaches us to dance

punset-interiorartculoWhy are we the only dancing animal?Answering this and other questions related to learning rhythmic skills is dedicated to Lawrence Parsons, a neurologist who sets the tone.

Tall and thin. Ungainly. Cognitive neurologist based in Sheffield (Great Britain), he completed his training at Californian universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).Lawrence Parsons It’s damned ugly – women will have to think otherwise – but it dazzled me. He was not concerned, unlike the rest of the hominids, when the crisis would end. I was on something else. He revealed to me the secret of why when I listen to music I love to rock to its rhythm and follow the beat with my head and even my body if no one is looking at me. Parsons has spent yearsinvestigating the reasons why we are the only known species that dances. Where does that come from? Why aren’t there other mammals that do it too, who like to sing in a group or tell stories?

They have just discovered that some domesticated birds can learn to sketch what we might call a dance. But it is far from resembling theemotional synchronization that occurs in humans when they follow the rhythm. In our case, we now know that the dance generates a degree ofsocial cohesionthat helps us survive. In thepool In general, the majority of genes are those who know how to dance and sing songs.If you get excited and follow the music, you live more.

Lawrence is also one of the world’s leading experts on the learning processes – I’m not talking about the social and emotional this time, although it has something to do with it – of musicians, athletes and artists. It was he who discovered to me that a former council of the French communist leader Maurice Thorez (1900-1964) had its equivalent in the world of emotions and learning. As my readers know – they have read it or heard it remind me on many occasions – the one who was for years General Secretary of the Communist Party told me one day: gesturing “. Well, 50 years later the neurologist Lawrence Parsons says the same to his students linked to the world of rhythm and dance: actresses who must have enough empathy to play the role of others, athletes who cannot let emotion control its sensorimotor mechanism and musicians who should not forget the structured bars.

It is clear, although almost no one is aware of it, that in the professions mentioned, but also in the rest, one cannot go overboard: empathy and emotion must be reconciled with the precise execution of the project. Of course, the actors must know how to put themselves in the place of the character they embody, that the athletes have to give free rein to their desire to reach the finish line first and that the musicians cannot interpret Mozart without entering his crazy and rhythmic mind. at once. But they should not overdo it. What Lawrence teaches his students is priceless: getting excited enough to win, but without losing control of the execution of the play.

Do you remember themirror neurons? Those brain cells allowed social primates to imitate the rest. Lawrence Parsons knew how to start from this discovery of the Italian neurologists to later exercise with their musicians, athletes and actors what he has calledmental rehearsal; that is, the ability we have to rehearse a dance, run towards a goal or perform a concert mentally, without moving a muscle. We do not need at all to go to the dance hall to learn sevillanas, to move to an athletics field to improve the hundred-meter mark or to have the violin at hand to play better.

Eduardo Punset

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