The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain
© 2008 - 2014, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Science supports many of our intuitions about the benefits of play. Playful behavior appears to have positive effects on the brain and on a child’s ability to learn. In fact, play may function as an important, if not crucial, mode for learning. Want specifics? Here are some examples. Animal experiments: Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex In 1964, Marion Diamond and her colleagues published an exciting paper about brain growth in rats. When researchers examined the rats’ brains, they discovered that the “enriched” rats had thicker cerebral cortices than did the “impoverished” rats (Diamond et al 1964). Subsequent research confirmed the results—rats raised stimulating environments had bigger brains. They were smarter, too--able to find their way through mazes more quickly (Greenough and Black 1992). Do these benefits of play extend to humans? BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells.
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