Stuart Brown explains: “Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity. Remember the definition of play: an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again. We have to put ourselves in the proper emotional state in order to play (although an activity can also induce the emotional state of play).
Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, who extensively studied play in rats and other animals at Bowling Green University and now has a [-p.61] play research center at Washington State University, believes that play arises first in the human brain stem, where survival mechanisms such as respiration, consciousness, sleep, and dreams originate. This initial activation (which is in-built and hardwired) then connects to and activates pleasurable emotions that accompany the process of playing. Without this emotional linkage, what occurs is something other than play.” (pp.60-61)
“[The emotions that foster play are] prompted by a deeper more primal process , which I believe Jaak has captured in his descriptions of processes that link brain stem (movement) to limbic (emotional) to cortex (thought).” (p.62)
Ref: Stuart Brown (2009) Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Avery: New York