Jour Fixe: Why do we play?

Wednesday, 19. Juli 2017
11.45 – 13.15

Y 311


Wolf Huetteroth

This week's Jour Fixe will be presented by Wolf Huetteroth, Fellow of the Zukunftskolleg affiliated with the Department of Biology. 

In his talk, he addresses the questions: Who apart from us is playing? What IS playing? And what is it good for?

Wolf will give a quick introduction into different forms of play including the wide distribution of play-like behavior among vertebrates, to address two main questions: Is play-like behavior universal, and if so, what is it good for? Surprisingly, a conclusive answer to this question is still missing. Insects need to tackle the same problems in their life as any other animal (including us): survive and reproduce. So if play-like behavior has any evolutionary advantage (and it should, since it is connected to serious costs), did insects also exploit this trait? To examine that, I am analyzing flies over several days in an enriched environment, with free access to food and water, and voluntary access to a spinning platform – a carousel.

Wolf proposes that an animal intentionally exposes its proprioceptors (body joint sensors) to external mechanical stimulation, i.e. centripetal force. This ‘intentional exafference’ is then used to challenge and train self-recognition memory (i.e. “self-awareness”) of the organism. Wolf will present preliminary data of voluntary passive movement in fruit that is in line with this hypothesis.