Special Themed Issue of the American Journal of Play Publishes
May 18, 2017
For Immediate Release
Play Changes the Brain
According to Special Themed Issue of the
American Journal of Play
ROCHESTER, NY—Does play change the makeup of the brain? The latest issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play provides an in-depth look at interpersonal neurobiology, an emerging field that combines sciences to examine the human experience. Guest edited by Terry Marks-Tarlow—renowned psychotherapist, play theorist, and author—the special issue explores play through a wide lens, including academic work from such fields of study as neuroscience, neurochemistry, evolutionary and development psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, ethology, aesthetics, and anthropology.
The issue includes an interview with renowned neuropsychologist Allan N. Schore, professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, who discusses breakthroughs in brain science that are changing the way that researchers understand the human experience—including the ways in which we play. Schore posits that play is an important component of how infants attune and attach to their mothers. He argues that mother-infant play “calms and soothes infants,” but that it also changes the brain itself. Play in the first year of life helps develop the nonverbal right part of the brain, and Schore sees the benefits of play at this early stage—sensory integration and structuring of the unconscious “core self”—as part of the evolutionary purpose of play.
“Play behavior transforms the physical environment into an enriched environment,” says Schore. “Changes in cortical and subcortical synaptic development from exposure to enriched environments are associated with regulated, elevated levels of arousal. Mother-infant play, like all later form of dyadic play, enhances behavioral flexibility through an increase in neural interconnectivity.”
Schore asserts that play continues to shape the brain throughout life—tying itself to mental health and emotional well-being.
Additional articles in Vol. 9, No. 2 of the American Journal of Play include:
“Ethology, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and Play: Insights into the Evolutionary Origin of the Arts,” by Ellen Dissanayake, independent scholar. Dissanayake examines the biological basis of the arts in human evolution. She argues that in the arts ordinary reality becomes extraordinary by attention-getting devices or operations—including formalization, repetition, exaggeration, elaboration, and manipulation—that also appear in many forms of play. Further, she notes that the secretion of pleasure chemicals associated with bonding between mothers and infants are amplified by these devices. And that these same devices also became prominent features of group rituals, which unified participants and offered evolutionary advantages.
“I Am an Avatar of Myself: Fantasy, Trauma, and Self-Deception,” by Terry Marks-Tarlow, psychotherapist, play theorist, and author. Marks-Tarlow explores deception in nature and self-deception in human beings by examining activities that may appear playful but that lack many important qualities of play. She argues that these activities—which may be forced by parents or adults upon children and not prove mutually pleasurable—can be psychologically destructive for the child.
“Listening beneath the Words: Parallel Processes in Music and Psychotherapy,” by Yakov Shapiro, clinical professor at the University of Alberta; Terry Marks-Tarlow, psychotherapist, play theorist, and author; and Joseph Fridman, Cognitive Science major at Cornell University. The authors investigate the parallels between musical performance and psychoanalytical therapy, using the former as a metaphor for the way therapist and patient jointly compose the therapeutic experience and better the treatment it offers.
The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at www.journalofplay.org. Printed editions are also available for subscription and single copy purchase.
About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.