3-1 | The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience

Book Review

The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience

Sergio Pellis and Vivien Pellis
Oxford, U.K.: Oneworld Publications, 2009. Illustrations, endnotes, bibliography, index. xxx, 257 pp. $29.95 cloth. ISBN: 9781851686322

by Patrick Bateson

First Paragraph:

While I was writing the review of this book, four fully grown European magpies that had hatched in a tall ash tree earlier in the summer were chasing each other round a deck chair outside my window. Then one of them flew up onto the top of the deck chair and slid down the sloping surface. Why were they doing this? The same question arises every year when my wife and I mate one of our pedigree cats and, after she has given birth, watch her kittens as they develop. Around three weeks of age, the kittens suddenly become active and start to pat and mouth each other. Wrestling, arching, and pouncing follows. At seven weeks, the kittens start to pat inanimate objects. If the object is furry, they will pounce on it and, having grabbed it, rake the object with their back legs. They spend about a tenth of each day engaged in these seemingly pointless activities.