Playful genes: what do we know about the epigenetics of play behaviour?

Marissa Sgro, Richelle Mychasiuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Play behaviour is a vital activity for healthy development and long-term functioning. However, the genetic and epigenetic regulation of play behaviour is relatively unexplored and there is currently a gap in the literature regarding the exact mechanisms that regulate play behaviour and the social brain in general. Therefore, this review will explore the current literature on play behaviour with respect to its importance from an evolutionary perspective and the regions of the brain that govern this complex behavioural output. We will then explore the epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in social behaviour and play, including the environmental and lifestyle factors that can induce epigenetic changes, which often lead to sex dimorphism of play behaviour. Furthermore, although limited, we will examine current research regarding epigenetic roles of specific genes (i.e. BDNF, IGF1, Mecp2, OXYR, Opa1, Drd2) in play and social behaviour. Finally, we will explore how play behaviour influences epigenetic changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Play
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • development
  • epigenome
  • sex-differences
  • Social brain network

Cite this