Brains at play

3 minutes

Playing distracts us from many vital activities. Why did we evolve to love it?

Like breathing, sleeping and eating, playing is innate in humans. But unlike those other functions, which could easily mean the difference between a long life and an early death, the usefulness of play isn’t quite as obvious. Brains at Play investigates play through the work of Jaak Panksepp, professor of integrative psychology and neuroscience at Washington State University, who conducted pioneering research on play. By performing surgery on rats, Panksepp discovered that the instinct to play exists in the primitive part of the mammalian brain, and has surprisingly important implications for social development.

Producer: John Poole

Website: NPR Ed

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like

‘Aeon is one of the most consistently great publications on the internet.

My life would be poorer without it.’

Assistant Professor Lee Vinsel, Virginia Tech

‘I read one article and decided that I wanted to support an organisation that promotes critical thinking around ideas that affect our everyday lives.’

John T, Canada, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is what readers and writers dream about. It is wide in scope, without ever being shallow. It offers stimulating issues, yet never seeking to be tantalising.

Publishing at its best. I love it.’

Professor Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford

‘Aeon, for me, continues to be one of the best places to spend a quiet afternoon, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds around.’

Shivam C, India, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is always providing great, thought-provoking content, and it would be a crime for me to not donate to a service that I use daily.’

Jarry A, Canada, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

Essay/
Mental Health
When the self slips

Individuals living with depersonalisation disorder bring vivid insight to the question of whether the self is an illusion

Anna Ciaunica & Jane Charlton

Essay/
Love & Friendship
Buddhists in love

Lovers crave intensity, Buddhists say craving causes suffering. Is it possible to be deeply in love yet truly detached?

Lisa Feldman Barrett & John Dunne