Summer is traditionally a time for academics to analyse their data and get down to some writing. Whilst we have certainly been doing that here at the Dance Psychology Lab, we have also managed to get some intellectual socialising done with lots of interesting visits, visitors and happenings…

First up, following on from our visit from the very enigmatic Professor Joe DeSouza , Joe and his colleagues at JoeLab are investigating learning and expertise effects for neuro-rehabilitation using dance for people with Parkinson’s.  Joe has been working with the National Ballet in Canada (click HERE to watch video). His EEG work considering changes in brain waves before and after dancing is very exciting and we look forward to developing our relationship with him.

Dr Lucy Annett, PhD student Becki Hadley and I were delighted to visit the Enfield Parkinson’s UK group on 8th August. We shared our current research projects and talked about dance for Parkinson’s. We have since put our lovely dance teacher Meryl Kiddier in touch with the group so that they can have a go too!

I was personally very happy to have or new lab space approved and moved in early September. Thanks to Parkinson’s UK Research Support Network, we have also been able to arrange our final participants for the rhythm and entrainment study. The lab is in the New Science Building, opened by the Duke of Edinburgh last year, is such a great place to work and be.

From 13th -15th September I attended the 10th International Conference of Student of Systematic Musicology (SysMus17) at Queen Mary University in London. I gave a 20 minute talk about our research titled “Investigating beat perception and sensorimotor synchronisation in people with and without Parkinson’s disease”. This was the first conference I have been to with live streaming of presentations. It was a tricky thinking whom to address when speaking! However, it was also lovely to receive such positive feedback about our research on sensorimotor entrainment for people with Parkinson’s.

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Nominees for the Dean’s Awards, Lucy and Becki – assisted in celebrating by me!

September continued to be a month of good surprises as Becki Hadley and Dr. Lucy Annett were nominated for the Dean’s Awards for community engagement through research and research led teaching respectively. The Award ceremony in October was spectacular and we had a wonderful time getting dressed up.

This wonderful atmosphere continued when Dr Ben Shultz arrived from the University of Maastricht as one of our Invited Speakers this semester. Ben’s talk “Make ‘em dance: Using acoustic salience to non-invasively stimulate the motor system” was from his research with Professor Sonja Kotz. They suggest that humans spontaneously synchronise their movements with different aspects of the sound (for example, when dancing). They propose that such movements are a direct result of specific acoustic features that activate motor responses in the peripheral nervous system. It was a fascinating talk, followed by a lovely meal out.

 

Dr Ben Shultz and Dr Peter Lovatt talking dance and Parkinson’s at The University of Hertfordshire.

 

 

Over to Becki now for her update and exciting news…

At this point we would like to say how very proud of her we are. Not only nominated for the Dean’s Award, but also WINNER of the 3-minute thesis competition. Becki always approaches her work with a warm heart and sharp mind – and that’s a superstar combination!

A spooktacular dance class, award nominations, and exciting visitors! by Becki Hadley, PhD Student.

The past few months have been a bit of whirlwind, not only just with research. October meant that the Dance for Parkinson’s class embraced the theme of Halloween, with our lovely attendees donning a variety of spoooooky outfits/headwear. Of course, we all busted a few moves to some Halloween classics, such as the Monster Mash and Thriller. We were also very lucky to have a number of people bring along some tasty Halloween treats. It is important to refuel after dancing around, right?

If you would like to come along, or think you know someone who might enjoy attending our class at Hertfordshire University, please see the website for further information: http://www.herts.ac.uk/uhbow/about-us/dance-for-parkinsons

In other news…I was (and still am) very grateful to have been shortlisted for a Dean’s Award for community engagement. There were some excellent candidates (including one of our dance class volunteers), all of whom have greatly contributed to the local and national community. Though I did not win, I hugely appreciate the time and effort spent by those who nominated me. It was a delight to attend the event alongside Dawn and to represent the dance class. The main thing is that the more people who know about our wonderful class (from within and outside the university), the better!

On a related note, I entered a Three Minute Thesis competition held at a post graduate research event at the university. As the name suggests, the aim is to clearly and concisely explain your PhD thesis within three minutes. The talk had to be engaging and not too complex, so that students and staff from a range of academic backgrounds could understand the topic. So, as you might imagine, summarising almost three years of work into a minute per year was somewhat challenging. I was lucky enough to win the competition, so I think this means I did a good job at highlighting the importance of the research I’m doing. To summarise in one statement, the ambition is that someday health professionals will be able to prescribe a precise and effective exercise programme for people with Parkinson’s, emerging from a strong evidence base.

We have our Parkinson’s Advisory Group meeting coming up and some exciting initiatives underway with Herts Sports Village and our new wonderful Head of Sport Sciences, Professor Elizabeth, so we look forward to reporting back on all of that next time.