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Motivation of play: from ethological to neurological perspectives

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The collection of papers presented in this Special Issue is the outcome of a series of workshops on the evolution of play held between 2011 and 2013 and sponsored by the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN, USA). These workshops were aimed at stimulating a multidisciplinary discussion about one of the most debated and controversial behaviours in the Animal Kingdom. Although neglected for a long time by researchers studying non-human animals, play research seems to be having a new Renaissance and the last ten years have been extremely fruitful in highlighting some important functions and in delineating key correlates of this activity. Obviously, it is impossible to fully represent such a multifaceted topic as play in a handful of papers; however, the articles in this Special Issue bring to light some over-arching themes and together provide innovative perspectives on play.

Affiliations: 1: aNatural History Museum, University of Pisa, Via Roma, 79, 56011, Calci, Pisa, Italy ; 2: bInstitute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Unit of Cognitive Primatology and Primate Center, CNR, Via Aldrovandi 16b, 00197 Rome, Italy ; 3: cDepartment of Child and Family Studies, University of Tennessee, 1215 Cumberland Avenue 422, Knoxville, TN 37996-1912, USA


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1. Bock J. (2002). "Learning, life history, and productivity". — Hum. Nat. Vol 13: 161-197.
2. Bock J. (2005). "Farming, foraging, and children’s play in the Okavango Delta, Botswana". — In: The nature of play: great apes and humans ( Pellegrini A.D. , Smith P.K. , eds). Guilford Press, New York, NY, p.  254-281.
3. Donaldson T.M. , Newberry R.C. , Špinka M. , Cloutier S. (2002). "Effects of early experience on play behaviour of piglets after weaning". — Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. Vol 79: 221-231.
4. Nahallage C.A.D. , Huffman M.A. (2007). "Acquisition and development of stone handling behavior in infant Japanese macaques". — Behaviour Vol 144: 1193-1215.
5. Palagi E. (2014). "A view from biology: playing alone and with others: a lesson from animals". — In: The handbook of solitude: psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone ( Coplan R.J. , Bowker J.C. , eds). Wiley Blackwell, Malden, MA, p.  463-482.
6. Palagi E. , Burghardt G.M. , Smuts B. , Cordoni G. , Dall’Olio S. , Fouts H.N. , Řeháková-Petrů M. , Siviy S.M. , Pellis S.M. (2016). "Rough-and-tumble play as a window on animal communication". — Biol. Rev. Vol 91: 311-327.
7. Power T.G. (2000). Play and exploration in children and animals. — Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
8. Ramsey J.K. , McGrew W.C. (2005). "Object play in great apes". — In: The nature of play: great apes and humans ( Pellegrini A.D. , Smith P.K. , eds). Guilford Press, New York, NY, p.  89-112.
9. Špinka M. , Newberry R.C. , Bekoff M. (2001). "Mammalian play: training for the unexpected". — Q. Rev. Biol. Vol 76: 141-168.

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