Play Digest: This Is Your Brain on Play

Enough time has passed since the bad old days of believing that play was a waste of time. The cognitive benefits of play are too numerous to mention: play can be a tool to socialize, play can help people build focus and increases brain size, and imaginative play can play a huge factor in building language skills.For this week’s link pack, we check out what’s new in play and neuroscience.

PEM’s resident neuroscientist, Tedi Asher, writes in an upcoming PlayTime post: “We are all driven to play. We are motivated to solve the problems that keep us from winning games, completing puzzles, or scoring points. Yet, explaining this is difficult, as play is often characterized as an act without purpose …. Researchers are now harnessing this robust and universal motivation to play to treat patients suffering from psychiatric disorders.”

What if part of a surgeon’s credentials had to include his or her high score in Sonic Mania?

Research scientist Janelle Shane trained a neural network to create names for Dungeons & Dragons spells.

Can games extend your life span? Gamer and video game advocate Jane McGonigal thinks so.

Should video games replace textbooks? This former gaming company executive wants to “bring a more modern experience into the classroom.” You decide.

Turning Alzheimer’s research into a crowdsourced game. It’s “hardly Candy Crush,” but there is optimism.

Check in next week for a new roundup of the latest play news and stories.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy Dirk Schaefer via Flickr.)

About Eugenia Bell

Eugenia Bell is the guest editor for She is the former executive editor of Design Observer and Design Editor of Frieze. Her writing has appeared in Frieze, Artforum, Bookforum, and Garage, among other places.