Play and Neurogenesis

Stuart Brown, psychiatrist, and founder of The National Institute for Play, feels that plays results in enormous changes in the development of the brain, specifically dendritic sprouting or neurogenesis, the interconnecting of millions of neurons.

Play's process of capturing a pretend narrative and combining it with the reality of one's experience in a playful setting is, at least in childhood, how we develop our major personal understanding of how the world works. We do so initially by imagining possibilities – simulating what might be, and then testing this against what actually is.

Consider what happens when a toddler manipulates toys, using the new language he or she is developing, and sorting them based on preferences. That is why Brown contends that elements of our personality, our actions, and belief system are derived from the enormous number of encounters in our daily lives. Play seems to be the most "advanced method nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself".

See page 207 to read the whole chapter. click

Brown, S., (2010). Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Avery.

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