Power of Play | Huberman Lab Podcast #58

Episode Webpage here

Key Takeaways

  • Play is the ultimate portal to plasticity.
  • Play allows us to explore different outcomes in a low-stakes environment.
  • The “Tinkerers” of the world maintained a strong sense of play throughout their life
  • The State of playfulness gets you to play BEST, even in competitive scenarios.

Resources Mentioned


  • Host of the Huberman Lab Podcast, Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. (@HubermanLab) is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance.
  • This podcast explores the necessity of play and how it forms us as human beings.
  • We read better on paper than smartphones. We do not do a physiological sigh when we read on electronics

 Play and the Brain

  • Play is Homeostatically Regulated. – If we’re restricted from playing for a certain amount of time, we need more play.  Needs to remain in balance
  •  Play releases natural opioids from the periaqueductal gray (PAG)
  • The prefrontal cortex sees and explores many different possibilities of how to interact with our environment while in a state of play.
  • Beneficial social play involves low amounts of epinephrine (adrenaline).
  • Play is the most powerful portal to neuroplasticity. BDNF is deployed in play.
  • Epinephrine and adrenaline suppress our ability to play.
  • Novel forms of movement open the portal to plasticity. Engage the vestibular system – balance. 

Childhood Play Evolution

  • The Baby Brain -we need things delivered to us
  • Toddlers – Everything is MINE
  • Young children – Children go from self-centered play to sharing and cooperative play. 
  • 10-14 years old peak time for development and play identity

Playful Mindset

  • By entering new situations, you’re working out your brain. Novelty increases plasticity.
  • Play allows us to explore different outcomes in a low-stakes environment. 
  • Observing how you and others react to situations while playing forms how we interact in the world. Are you/they Cheating? Rigid in the rules? Sad if you lose?
  • These observations help you understand yourself and others. We discover our proficiencies through play
  • “Play is about testing, experimenting, and expanding the brain’s capacity”
  • Adults and children establish their roles and form hierarchies through play.

Play Postures

  • Eye contact with a lowered down head. We make ourselves smaller and less intimidating. We limit power deliberately
  • Head tilted with eyes open is the universal play posture. Might raise eyebrows and purse lips
  • Most extreme play – eyes wide open tongue out. 

Adulthood Play 

  • Animals that engage in play for the longest amount of time have the largest neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change
  • Famous Physicist Richard Feynman was a lifelong tinkerer with a playful spirit. Something he worked very hard to maintain throughout his adulthood.
  • 0-25 y/o we learn things through passive exposure because our nerve cells are overconnected.
  • 40% of these interconnections are gone after age 25. It’s the removal of incorrect connections and the strengthening of remaining connections.
  • Through the process of play, we become and adjust who we are as adults.
  • Neurochemical substrates created by trauma shuts down play circuits. By engaging in play as adults, we can re-open these substrates.
  • We are built to play. Play circuits remain in adulthood.

Personal Play Identity

  • 4 Factors determine our play identity 
    • How you play – competitive, cooperative, leader, follower?
    • Your personality
    • Sociocultural and environment 
    • Economics and technology
Huberman Lab : , , ,
Notes By Paul Keating

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 35,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks