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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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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

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

Essay/
Neurodiversity
The autism paradox

How an autism diagnosis became both a clinical label and an identity; a stigma to be challenged and a status to be embraced

Bonnie Evans

Essay/
Gender & Sexuality
The non-binary brain

Misogynists are fascinated by the idea that human brains are biologically male or female. But they’ve got the science wrong

Emily Willingham