View Full Version : ADHD and PlayPlay: (Play: A Primary-Process Emotional Circuit)

02-06-13, 09:53 PM
(correction can't edit title thread after posting): ADHD and Play (Play: A Primary-Process Emotional Circuit)

Play: A Primary-Process Emotional Circuit

Humans are born with a sophisticated brain that is ready to take in sensory information, to learn and to grow. However, we are not born with brains fully encoded and knowledgeable of the variety of experiences we may encounter throughout our lives. Instead, much of the higher brain can be considered to be “empty”—to be a tabula rasa—that is programmed by epigenetic effects that are modulated by developmental experiences (Meaney, 2012). However, genetically ingrained tools for living clearly exist in subcortical brain regions. Functional evidence indicates that our brains contain at least seven primary-process emotional systems, shared by all mammals, that help us anticipate and respond to situations that promote or threaten our survival (Panksepp, 1998b; Panksepp & Biven, 2012). These systems compel mammals to explore, to fear dangerous situations and to care for young. They also drive mammals, especially the young, to play.

The details of the play circuitry are not fully known but lesions to the parafascicular complex and posterior dorsomedial thalamic nuclei reduce play behaviors in rats, strongly suggesting that these areas make up part of the play circuit (Panksepp, 1998b; Panksepp & Biven, 2012). Other brain areas that may be involved include the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and various hypothalamic areas but many of these areas are also involved in movement or aggression, both of which could affect one’s desire or ability to play. Neocortex, however, is not directly involved in play. Decorticated juvenile rats (neocortex ablated in infancy) show a normal desire to play but with some modest differences in the number and duration of play behaviors. However, these differences disappear when playing with non-decorticated play partners (Panksepp et al., 1994).

Taken together, the evidence supports the assertion that play is one of the primary-process brain circuits, devised through evolution, that promote instinctual feelings and behaviors, and ultimately aid development of the mature social brain.