Laughter on the Brain, Laughter in Language.

Laughter on the Brain, Laughter in Language.

Laughter is an essential part of our daily lives, whether we are laughing at a funny joke or simply something that has amused us, it is an important part of social interaction. At the behavioural level laughter consists of motor and emotional components. Due to the difficulties of studying laughter in an experimental setting very little research has been conducted into laughter in the academic press. The few studies that have been conducted into laughter in the past have found that the basal temporal cortex, inferior frontal cortex and medical frontal cortex have all been associated with the emotional component of laughter (mirth). The previous literature has however not been able to clearly develop an understanding of the exact neural origins and pathways that link our facial movements during laughter and emotion together.

One recent piece of research from Japan has began to help develop an understanding the neural correlates of laughter. In a study that utilised electrical cortical stimulation (ES) in volunteer patients undergoing brain surgery the researchers investigated laughter. Two patients undergoing brain surgery for severe epilepsy took part in this study. Electrical cortical stimulation near to the bilateral temporal language areas were applied in both instances.

One patient with high-frequency ES consistently caused contralateral facial movement, that was followed by bilateral facial movements and the emotion of mirth. Mirth being an emotion that is involved with laughter.

The second patient whom had hippocampal sclerosis, under ES elicited only mirth at low ES frequencies. At high ES frequencies laughter and mirth were generated.

This study offers an interesting insight into laughter in the brain. The results of this study demonstrates that the processing of laughter in the brain is intricately linked to language processing in the brain. The facial movements that are associated with mirth activated the same medial temporal structures that are also active during language processing. These results show that language and laughter may has evolved in the human brain together and that as a result the neural processing of the two are inter-linked.

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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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