Play and cognition: The final frontier

Play involves neural circuits that encompass motivational, emotional and reward systems, such that the removal of the cortex does not impair the development, frequency, form or reward value of playing. However, the ability to ‘play with play’, that is, the ability to modify how play is performed with changing salient features of the context, does require cortical neural circuits. The ability to modulate play in this cognitive manner varies comparatively, both within and between lineages and encompasses the least studied aspect of play. What are the conditions that allow some members of a lineage to have greater cognitive control over play and its communication? Are these enhanced cognitive control mechanisms associated with adaptive changes in play? In this chapter, we review some of the neural, developmental and comparative dimensions of how cognition is involved in the expression of play and point to the mechanisms and functions that seem most promising to pursue. © 2016 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Play involves neural circuits that encompass motivational, emotional and reward systems, such that the removal of the cortex does not impair the development, frequency, form or reward value of playing. However, the ability to ‘play with play’, that is, the ability to modify how play is performed with changing salient features of the context, does require cortical neural circuits. The ability to modulate play in this cognitive manner varies comparatively, both within and between lineages and encompasses the least studied aspect of play. What are the conditions that allow some members of a lineage to have greater cognitive control over play and its communication? Are these enhanced cognitive control mechanisms associated with adaptive changes in play? In this chapter, we review some of the neural, developmental and comparative dimensions of how cognition is involved in the expression of play and point to the mechanisms and functions that seem most promising to pursue. © 2016 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

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