Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Laugh And The Whole World Laughs With You: Why The Brain Just Can't Help Itself

Date:
December 13, 2006
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
Laughter is truly contagious, and now, scientists studying how our brain responds to emotive sounds believe they understand why.

Cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew's description of Ian Botham's freak dismissal, falling over his own stumps -- "He couldn't quite get his leg over" -- was all it took to send himself and the late Brian Johnston into paroxysms of laughter. Laughter is truly contagious, and now, scientists studying how our brain responds to emotive sounds believe they understand why.

Related Articles


Researchers at UCL (University College London) and Imperial College London have shown that positive sounds such as laughter or a triumphant "woo hoo!" trigger a response in the listener's brain. This response occurs in the area of the brain that is activated when we smile, as though preparing our facial muscles to laugh. The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, Action Medical Research and the Barnwood House Trust, is published today in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"It seems that it's absolutely true that 'laugh and the whole world laughs with you'," says Dr Sophie Scott, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL. "We've known for some time now that when we are talking to someone, we often mirror their behaviour, copying the words they use and mimicking their gestures. Now we've shown that the same appears to apply to laughter, too -- at least at the level of the brain."

The research team played a series sounds to volunteers whilst measuring their brain's response using an fMRI scanner. Some of the sounds were positive, such as laughter or triumph, whilst others were unpleasant, such as screaming or retching. All of the sounds triggered a response in the volunteer's brain in the premotor cortical region, which prepares the muscles in the face to respond accordingly, though the response was greater for positive sounds, suggesting that these were more contagious than negative sounds. The researchers believe this explains why we respond to laughter or cheering with an involuntary smile.

"We usually encounter positive emotions, such as laughter or cheering, in group situations, whether watching a comedy programme with family or a football game with friends," says Dr Scott. "This response in the brain, automatically priming us to smile or laugh, provides a way of mirroring the behaviour of others, something which helps us interact socially. It could play an important role in building strong bonds between individuals in a group."

So, if you want Christmas with the extended family to go swimmingly, maybe you should switch off Eastenders and dig out your Only Fools and Horses DVDs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Laugh And The Whole World Laughs With You: Why The Brain Just Can't Help Itself." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061212213922.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2006, December 13). Laugh And The Whole World Laughs With You: Why The Brain Just Can't Help Itself. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061212213922.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Laugh And The Whole World Laughs With You: Why The Brain Just Can't Help Itself." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061212213922.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) — More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) — A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins