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2.1 Reading 1 InstructionsYour Brain On PlayWould you be surprised to learn that play helps your brain grow? That’s right, play is actuallygood for our brains! Thanks to decades of research in the area of neuroscience, we now knowthat play has tangible social, emotional, and cognitive benefits for humans. Through a processcalled neuroplasticity, our brains are literally reshaped by our experiences. Neuroplasticity refersto the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural pathways to help it better adaptto its environment. Every time you learn a new task (such as riding a bicycle, learning a newlanguage, even learning how to juggle!), the brain changes its neural circuitry based on this newknowledge. Through repetition, the brain can become more efficient and better at performingcertain tasks. Think about the first time you got on a bicycle and how difficult it was. Now thinkabout riding a bicycle today. Chances are you improved a little bit each time until you were ableto ride without falling over. That’s how neuroplasticity works – by repeatingcertain behaviors, we strengthen the part of the brain that helps us perform that action.So, how does this process actually occur? As soon as a baby is born, her brain is already buildingneural pathways. As brain cells mature, they form connections (or synapses) with other braincells. This is how brain cells communicate with each other. By the time a child is two or threeyears old, they actually have MORE synaptic connections than most adults (see picture below).As we age, old connections we no longer need are lost through a process called synapticpruning. Similarly, other connections become strengthened through regular performance ofthat action. The following video provides an excellent illustration of the process ofneuroplasticity in action: ()Our experiences determine which neural connections are pruned and which are strengthened.As an example, studies have shown that musicians who play stringed instruments haveincreased gray matter (the neural connections in the brain) in the somatosensory cortex regionof the brain, which is associated with our sense of touch. In other words, the part of the brainassociated with learning to play a musical instrument is literally bigger in musicians due torepeated exposure. And it’s not just PLAYING a musical instrument that changes our brain.Simply listening to music, we enjoy sets off a pleasurable chemical chain reaction in the brain.Music induces the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter responsible forcontrolling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Watch this video to see what happens toyour brain on music: ()Brain Rule #10 "Music - Study or listen to boost cognition. Music training improves severalintellectual skills including vocabulary, memory and sensory-motor skills. Musicians are better atdetecting emotion in the voices of others and even changes in a baby’s cry. Music lessons have

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Term
Fall
Professor
Jennifer Miller
Tags
Martin Seligman

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