Two Left Feet? Blame Your Brain, Say Experts

04/03/2011 17:48 | Updated 22 May 2015

As anyone who's never missed a week of Strictly Come Dancing knows, there are some people who can pick up complicated dance routines as if it was the easiest thing in the world. But others, in the meantime, struggle to master the most basic moves. No, we won't mention any names, but you know who we mean.

Confident on the dancefloor? It's all down to your brain. Photo: Corbis

If you too belong to the two-left-feet brigade, you may have wondered why. Well it's all because of the way your brain works, say University of Oxford scientists - and in particular, a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA for short).

Writing in the journal Current Biology, the researchers made their discovery while testing GABA levels in volunteers. GABA is an important chemical for part of the brain called the motor cortex, which is involved in how movement is planned, controlled and carried out.

By measuring the amount of GABA in the volunteers, the researchers found those whose GABA dropped to the lowest levels were quicker to pick up a sequence of finger motions than those whose GABA levels stayed high. In other words, if your GABA levels decrease when you're learning a new skill, you're more likely to catch on to it quickly.

The same applies to anything that involves movement - playing the piano, for instance, or learning a sport.

Treatments that influence GABA levels are already in use in the medical world, say the researchers. Now if only they could dish some out to those Strictly contestants...

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