Rough-and-Tumble Play and the Development of the Social Brain: What Do We Know, How Do We Know It, and What Do We Need to Know?

Studies using laboratory rats have yielded compelling evidence that engaging in social play with peers during the juvenile period is important for the development of a range of skills, including cognitive, emotional, and social ones. In part, these play-induced effects on these skills arise from the developmental effects of play on the maturation of executive functions mediated by the prefrontal cortex. There are, however, crucial limitations to the knowledge gained thus far. In this chapter, we offer some practical solutions that can be employed to improve our understanding of how social play is measured, how the experience of such play can be experimentally manipulated in the juvenile period, and what steps need to be taken to ensure that findings across different strains of rats corroborate one another. Together, these methodological improvements increase our ability to generalize the conclusions drawn from laboratory studies on rodents to other species, including humans. © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Studies using laboratory rats have yielded compelling evidence that engaging in social play with peers during the juvenile period is important for the development of a range of skills, including cognitive, emotional, and social ones. In part, these play-induced effects on these skills arise from the developmental effects of play on the maturation of executive functions mediated by the prefrontal cortex. There are, however, crucial limitations to the knowledge gained thus far. In this chapter, we offer some practical solutions that can be employed to improve our understanding of how social play is measured, how the experience of such play can be experimentally manipulated in the juvenile period, and what steps need to be taken to ensure that findings across different strains of rats corroborate one another. Together, these methodological improvements increase our ability to generalize the conclusions drawn from laboratory studies on rodents to other species, including humans. © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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