12/18/2014 04:18 EST | Updated 02/17/2015 05:59 EST

What dance does for your brain

What does dance do for you?

New research suggests dance can reach people with dementia, autism and mental illness in ways that words cannot.  People with Parkinson's disease can become less rigid. What has dance done for you?

To get fit, have fun, and sometimes, to forget — there's no shortage of good reasons to get down on the dance floor. 

Now, researchers are learning more about the cognitive and emotional benefits of moving to music, and those insights are being used to help treat people afflicted with a number of kinds of mental illness.

Hamiltonian Megan English was on CBC Radio One’s Ontario Today on Friday afternoon to discuss her work as a movement psychotherapist. She talked about what inspired her to use dance in her practice and how her clients benefit from this unique form of treatment. English is the Ontario Regional Representative of the Dance Movement Therapy Association in Canada.

English is working with a woman who has an eating disorder and is using dance to help her. She says "dance provide different routes to communication" and with her patient the controlled pace of her dance made the woman to consider the quick pace of her life outside of therapy. That realization helped her treatment.

English says "by paying attention to sensations in the body... we can activate the part of the nervous system that activates the resting state in the body. When we are nervous or anxious the nervous system is hyper-aroused." English says dance engages the part of the nervous system that is activated when we are at rest.

Listen to the full interview at the top of this page.