The Playful Brain: Venturing Limits of Neuroscience

Overview

For centuries the phenomenon of play has perplexed scientists across the board. Studies by biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and educators have excited keen debate and contention, producing diverse opinions that pose play as both a childish waste of time and a necessary tool in the development of a healthy, fulfilled individual. But so far the lack of empirical research has meant that questions about the functionality of play, its origins, and variety amongst different species remain ...

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The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience

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Overview

For centuries the phenomenon of play has perplexed scientists across the board. Studies by biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and educators have excited keen debate and contention, producing diverse opinions that pose play as both a childish waste of time and a necessary tool in the development of a healthy, fulfilled individual. But so far the lack of empirical research has meant that questions about the functionality of play, its origins, and variety amongst different species remain unanswered. In this fully integrated study neuroscientists Sergio and Vivien Pellis address these questions, synthesizing three decades of empirical research to create a truly seminal study into the whys and wherefores of play.

Referencing a broad range of species and using the playful rat as their model, they investigate all the puzzling properties of this essential pastime including: the rough and tumble nature of play, its multi-functional purpose, the differences between male and female play, and what part evolution has had in it all. With implications for so many disciplines, the Pellises' original research and novel findings will not only expand our current knowledge of play behavior, but will inspire change and progress from the laboratory to the playground.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781851687602
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Publication date: 9/16/2010
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xix

Illustrations xxi

1 The puzzle of play 1

A cause for rejoicing and a cause for caution 7

What do rats do when play fighting? 9

2 The playful rat 15

The development of play fighting 19

Was it good for you, big boy? 22

Rethinking the play fighting of rats 25

Sex differences in play fighting 26

Turning a mouse into a rat 29

3 Turning a mouse brain into a rat brain 32

The peculiarities of play fighting in murid rodents 36

On making species comparisons 39

Reciprocity and fairness in play fighting 42

How much like sex is murid play fighting? 45

The neural control of play fighting 46

The role of the cortex 51

Is complex play fighting a by-product of changes to the brain and its development? 54

Explaining species differences in the complexity of play 60

4 So, what does playing buy you? 62

Juvenile play and the rehearsal of action patterns 65

Is it really the deprivation of play that causes the deficits in animals that have been reared in isolation? 74

Being better at coping with stress 78

The uniqueness of the juvenile play experience 82

Learning to cope 85

The many benefits problem revisited 89

Brain begets play and play begets brain 90

5 Playing for the present 98

I can't wait until I have grown up to get value out of playing 98

Play fighting as social assessment and social manipulation 102

Wisdom in the trees 105

Delayed and immediate functions of play revisited 108

6 Taking species diversity seriously 110

Mouse play to rat play revisited 111

From handling pups roughly to parental play 122

Returning to some unanswered oddities 129

All roads lead to Rome 134

7 What's so good about play fighting? 137

The uses of ambiguity 138

And on to humans 141

How to become good at being ambiguous 147

Why is play fighting more frequent in boys than girls? 151

8 From here to eternity 157

The deconstruction of complexity 157

Where do we go from here? 161

Endnotes 167

Bibliography 204

Index 246

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