Marshall Winner Investigates Dance As Therapy For Neurological Disorder

Josephine Cooke

Josephine Cooke, Queens College, Marshall Scholarship

Josephine Cooke (Queens College, 2018) intends to use her Marshall Scholarship to earn a doctorate at Imperial College London on how dance therapy may help rehabilitate people with neurological disorders. The Marshall, funded by the British government, selected just 43 U.S. students to pursue a range of postgraduate degrees in the United Kingdom.

Cooke started dancing at age 3 in Seattle. She moved to New York to study at the Alvin Ailey school, but a knee injury sidelined her. “After I was forced to step back from dance, I considered how I could combine my interests,” she says.
As a dancer double-majoring in neuroscience and psychology, she was in uncharted terrain. There has been little research conducted on the possible benefits that dance might bring to treating neurological conditions. The few existing studies focus mostly on Parkinson’s Disease.

She foresees a Ph.D. thesis on how dance might mitigate dysfunction in the inner ear’s vestibular system, which helps with balance and spatial orientation. “My long-term goal is to have a center that uses the arts – dance, music, painting, poetry – to rehabilitate a wide array of neurological and psychiatric conditions.”

Queens College’s rare Transfer Honors Program was a key factor in her decision to transfer from Fordham University after her freshman year. Soon after, she found associate professor Jeff Beeler, who encouraged her independent research into how the mouse brain changes while learning. “Although this is not directly transferrable to my doctoral work, I can apply the understanding of neuroanatomy that I gained.”