Published February 2022 on YouTube

Using Play to Rewire & Improve Your Brain | Huberman Lab Podcast #58

1. The Power of Play

Andrew discusses the importance of play for both children and adults, and how it can change our nervous system for the better. He explores how assuming different identities during play can enhance creativity and leadership skills, and how learning to play properly can improve focus and potentially treat ADHD. Regardless of age or childhood experiences, everyone can benefit from the neural circuits that allow for the power of play.+

2. Smartphone Reading Impact

Impact of Smartphone Reading:Andrew discusses a recent study that found reading on a smartphone negatively impacts comprehension compared to reading on paper. The study also found that physiological sighs, which help bring in more oxygen, were less frequent when reading on a smartphone.+
Improve Learning Focus:Andrew Huberman discusses how reading on smartphones can suppress our physiological sighs, leading to stress and reduced oxygen flow to the brain. He suggests engaging in deep breathing and physiological sighs every five minutes while reading on devices or switching to printed materials for important information. Huberman emphasizes the importance of widening our visual window to improve learning and focus.+

3. Power of Play

Power of Play:Andrew emphasizes the importance of the gut microbiome and how it supports brain function. He introduces Athletic Greens as a sponsor and explains how their probiotics support the gut microbiome. He also offers a special offer for listeners to try Athletic Greens.+
High-Quality Gear:Andrew shares his experience with ROKA, a company that makes high-quality sunglasses and eyeglasses that are designed to adapt seamlessly to changes in luminance. He also talks about how lightweight and aesthetically pleasing they are. He also talks about Helix Sleep, a company that makes customized mattresses and pillows tailored to your sleep needs.+

4. Homeostatic Regulation of Play

The Purpose of Play:Andrew discusses the utility of play and why we tend to play less as we get older. He explains that play is not just about games, but how we test and expand our potential roles in all kinds of interactions.+
The Biology of Play:Andrew discusses the concept of homeostasis and how it applies to play. He introduces Jaak Panksepp, a scientist who pioneered the understanding of the biology and psychology of play in animals and humans. Panksepp's research showed that play is homeostatically regulated and that animals and children will play more when restricted from playing for a certain amount of time.+
The Playful Brain:Andrew explains how play is generated through the connectivity of many brain areas, including the Periaqueductal Gray (PAG), a brain stem area rich with neurons that make endogenous opioids. These opioids are released in children and adults anytime we engage in play, which allows the prefrontal cortex to develop the ability to take on different roles and explore different contingencies.+
Personal Play Identity:Andrew discusses the concept of personal play identity and how it develops during childhood. He explains that it is plastic throughout our lifespan and can be adjusted to benefit us in work, relationships, and overall happiness. Play is not just for children and sports, but an exploration of contingencies that can enrich our lives.+

5. Childhood Play & Mindsets

The Playful Baby Brain:Andrew explains how play is a crucial aspect of our lives and how we can learn a lot from observing the way toddlers play. He discusses the fundamental rules by which the toddler brain interacts with the world, including the hard-wired mechanism of expressing discomfort and looking for external solutions.+
The Toddlers Creed:Andrew discusses the "Toddlers Creed" poem by Burton White and how it reflects the limited world view and self-centeredness of young children. He explains how this stage of development is necessary for children to transition from being delivered things to accessing them in the world. The next stage of development involves interacting with other children and learning to let go of possessions, which is a key contingency established during play.+

6. Contingency Testing

Andrew discusses how play is a form of contingency testing that allows individuals to explore different roles and outcomes in a low stakes environment. Through play, the brain can expand its operations and individuals can discover their proficiency and discomfort in assuming different roles.+

7. The (Power of) Playful Mindset

Andrew discusses the benefits of engaging in a playful mindset and how it can increase neuroplasticity in the prefrontal cortex. By allowing oneself to explore different outcomes and scenarios, even in low-stakes situations, the brain can become more adaptable and able to change in response to experiences.+

8. Body Postures

Play Postures:Andrew explains the hardwired features of play postures seen in animals and humans, including the universal head and facial expression posture of play in humans, the soft eyes, and the puppy bow or play bow that dogs do.+
Play Postures:Andrew explains how animals and humans use partial postures during play, which are enactments of postures that would otherwise be threatening. These postures occur when animals approach each other, but keep their fur down, and humans tend to make their body smaller unless they are highly competitive.+
Playful Postures:Andrew discusses the different postures that animals and humans use to communicate playfulness, including partial postures and extreme play expressions like wide eyes and sticking out the tongue. He also shares insights on the differences between old world and new world primates and how to identify them.+

9. Rule Testing & Breaking

Social Dynamics:Andrew explains how play can inform social dynamics and how failures to agree on stakes can affect how people develop in social groups. He shares an anecdote about a childhood game called "Dirt Clod Wars" to illustrate the importance of having rules and agreements in play.+
The Importance of Play:Andrew discusses the importance of play in animals and humans, highlighting how it serves multiple functions such as rule testing and low stakes contingency rule breaking. He also emphasizes the importance of learning proper play contingency when young and how it can affect our reactions as adults.+

10. Role Play

Andrew discusses the importance of play in brain development and how it helps establish hierarchies and expand the brain's capacity. He also talks about the different forms of play, such as role play and cooperative play, and how they help test and experiment with different reactions and behaviors.+

11. Neurobiology of Low-stakes Play

Andrew explains the neurobiological substrates for social playfulness in mammalian brains and how to engage the play circuitry with low levels of adrenaline and the presence of dopamine and endogenous opioids.+

12. Playfulness and Performance

Playfulness and Performance:Andrew discusses the importance of playfulness in achieving optimal performance. He explains how being hyper-focused on an outcome can hinder creativity and flexibility in thinking. By engaging in low-stakes thinking and play, we can explore different possibilities and expand our capabilities over time.+
The Power of Play:Andrew discusses the evolutionary utility of play and how it can be applied to various aspects of life. He emphasizes the importance of being a tinkerer and how it can lead to creativity and innovation in different fields, using examples from NASA, cooking, music, and skateboarding. Andrew also encourages listeners to expand their forms of play and engage with new groups of individuals to stimulate their brains and enhance their skills.+

13. Play for Neuroplasticity

Andrew explains how play is the most powerful portal to neuroplasticity. Play is the way in which we learn the rules for different stages of life and test how we might function in the real world context. By engaging in play, we establish a broader foundation of practices that allow us to learn more things within that context.+

14. Adulthood Play

Playfulness and Neuroplasticity:Andrew explains how animals that engage in playful behaviors for longer periods have greater neuroplasticity. He also talks about Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who maintained a playful stance throughout his life.+
The Power of Play:Andrew discusses the importance of play in fostering creativity and innovation, using examples from science, art, and medicine. He highlights the playful spirit of individuals like Feynman and Banksy, and emphasizes the utility of play in seeing the world differently and making great discoveries.+

15. Fire Together, Wire Together

Neuroplasticity and Learning:Andrew explains the concept of neuroplasticity and how the brain and nervous system can change in response to experience. He discusses the different ways in which neuroplasticity occurs throughout the lifespan, emphasizing the importance of focus, rest, and repetition in learning new things.+
Passive Learning:Andrew explains how the developing brain is able to learn through passive experience due to extensive nerve connections. He also discusses the process of pruning, where approximately 40% of interconnections disappear by the time an individual is 25 years old.+
The Power of Play:Andrew explains how play is crucial in the development of the brain and how it helps in pruning and strengthening neural connections. He talks about how the process of play helps in setting up rules for how we behave as adults in almost all domains, and how playing as an adult can expand those neural circuits.+

16. Trauma & Play Deficits & Recovery

Trauma and Play:Andrew explains how trauma and stress can inhibit play behavior and limit neuroplasticity in children. However, he also discusses how trauma therapies and engaging in play as adults can reactivate these circuits and reopen plasticity.+
Play and Trauma:Andrew discusses the role of play and dance in trauma treatment. He explains how engaging in bodily movements in new ways can help rewire the traumatized brain and access new ways of thinking. While there may not be a magic pill to erase trauma, combining shifts in neurochemical states with new behaviors like play can be highly productive in rewiring the brain.+

17. Competition & Dynamic Movement

Playful Neuroplasticity:Andrew discusses how play can be a portal to neuroplasticity and how to engage in competitive play while keeping adrenaline low. He also highlights the importance of engaging in novel forms of movement to expand the brain's possibilities for change throughout life.+
Movement and Plasticity:Andrew discusses how dynamic movements and movements of different speeds can open up plasticity in the brain, particularly when they engage the vestibular system. Playful activities like dance and sports can mimic the brain circuitry associated with play and promote plasticity, as long as they are not taken too seriously.+

18. Chess, Mental Roles, Novelty

Chess and Neuroplasticity:Andrew discusses the benefits of playing chess for neuroplasticity and how it allows players to adopt multiple roles and explore different lenses of life. He recommends picking an activity that allows for the adoption of different roles to expand plasticity.+
Play for Neuroplasticity:Andrew discusses the importance of play in exploring new movements and thoughts to promote neuroplasticity. While exercise is important, engaging in novel activities that challenge the brain can expand one's ability to learn and adapt in various aspects of life.+

19. Personal Play Identity

Personal Play Identity:Andrew discusses the concept of personal play identity and its four dimensions - how you play, personality, socio-culture and environment, and economics and technology. He asks listeners to reflect on their childhood play preferences and how they carry that forward into adulthood.+
Personal Play Identity:Andrew discusses how our personal play identity, developed during adolescence, can reveal our tendencies and preferences as adults in various activities such as work and relationships. He provides a link to a paper with questions that help determine one's personal play identity.+

20. Play Transforms Your Future Self

Andrew discusses how play is a fundamental aspect of our nervous system that can change our brain for the better at any stage of life. He highlights the importance of play in developmental biology and how it impacts our behavior as we grow older. Additionally, he emphasizes that the human nervous system is plastic for the entire lifespan, and neural circuits can form later in life through play.+

21. Recommendations for Play

Andrew recommends engaging in at least one hour of pure play per week to access neurochemical combinations that open up neuroplasticity. Play is about exploring contingencies with low stakes and not worrying about proficiency. Our brain circuits are built for play and it's important throughout the lifespan.+

22. Supporting the Huberman Lab

Andrew shares ways to support the podcast, including subscribing, leaving reviews, checking out sponsors, and using Thorne supplements. He emphasizes the importance of using high-quality supplements and offers a discount for Thorne products.+