The benefits of laughter are clear: it helps release tension and promotes positivity. But the basis of humour is more complex and rooted in cognitive and emotional responses in the brain. Different from animals’ play signals, humour is thought to be specific to humans, though the neurobiology behind it isn’t yet fully understood. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) researchers have now identified the specific areas of the brain that are activated during funny moments. In these computer-generated brain maps, yellow and red spheres represent the activation of neuron clusters in response to comical visual stimuli like pictures and movies. And the other spheres pinpoint areas responding to verbal stimuli from jokes either spoken (green) or written (blue). Understanding more about the way our brains process humour may help to treat certain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression in which humour perception can be unconventional or reduced.
Written by Helen Thomas
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