Monday, September 11, 2017

OSCAR Student Sofie Massa Integrates Dance, Psychology, and Bioengineering

The Engineering Dance Summer Team Project initially attracted our team because of its ability to integrate elements from each of our respective fields: dance, psychology, and bioengineering.  With so many academic backgrounds working on this project, it was interesting to see the diverse viewpoints that each member brought to the table; additionally, the initial eagerness we had for the project only grew as we learned more about each other. As a result of our collaboration, we developed a comprehensive project that allowed us to analyze different technical dance correction methods. Through the observation of the anatomical alignment of dancers and non-dancers, we were able to compare the efficacy of  imagery-based feedback to kinesthetic-based feedback on dance performance.  
On a weekly basis, our team uses Optitrack Motion Capture equipment to collect quantitative data, which we use to assess the anatomical alignment of dancers and non-dancers. Furthermore, each team member attends a weekly meeting with the respective mentor of their field of study.  At these meetings, each of us presents a progress report for the project and discusses literature that is beneficial to the project.  In addition, every other week, our entire team meets with the mentors from each department involved to receive feedback about data collection, analysis and to ask questions.
Our own long-term goals are more specific to each field of study we belong to. For dance specifically, imagery based feedback or corrections are regularly used for correcting alignment and other issues in dance. What our project expects to discover is what exactly is anatomically changing as these corrections are being given.  This will give teachers a better idea of how imagery feedback is anatomically affecting the students, which could allow teachers to more effectively use imagery as a teaching method. Not only could the findings of our project affect the way imagery is used in both teaching and learning dance, but it can also be further incorporated within the field of dance therapy.  

To a psychologist, the applications of this project demonstrate how different people can optimally attain the same goal (in this case, improved performance of a dance sequence) through the use of different learning mechanisms.  This finding contributes to cognitive psychology’s overall understanding of learning by illustrating how people approach tasks through utilization of diverse cognitive thinking and planning strategies.
From a Bioengineering perspective, comparing the efficacy of imagery and kinesthetic-based feedback in dancers and non-dancers allows for the observational learning of complex motor skills. These observations, and its effect on neural processes may allow for improved procedures in the field of dance therapy. This may be very useful when treating symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that cause neurocognitive impairment like Cerebral Palsy.  
We are all so thankful to OSCAR for giving us the opportunity to step outside of our specific disciplines in order to collaborate in a way we didn’t think was possible.