9-2 | Vygotsky Meets Neuroscience


Vygotsky Meets Neuroscience
The Cerebellum and the Rise of Culture through Play

Larry Vandervert


The author suggests the brain’s cerebellum and cerebral cortex are the ori-gin of culture and considers the cerebellar models that came to constitute culture to be derived specifically from play. He summarizes recent research on the behavioral, cognitive, and affective evolution of the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex that shows the development of these processes created increased efficiencies, unconscious control of complex situations, the ability to predict probable future circumstances before they occur, error correction in emotional and social situations, and an unconscious blending of compo-nents to solve new problems. He argues that human play evolved from animal play, which helped train animals to deal with unexpected circumstances. As animal play evolved toward human play, rule-governed imagination allowed play to help predict events through sequence detection. Human play then led to the advent of culture, which socially amplified the advantages of these adaptations. The author contends that this creative blending of cerebellar models provides an explanation of Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) most compelling insights about play. He concludes that, although play and culture appear dramatically different, they develop from the same brain mechanisms. Key words: animal play; brain evolution; cerebellum; creativity; culture; play; socialization; Vygotsky; zone of proximal development