Laughter and the Brain
A happy article…..It is amazing to know that laughter activates different areas of the brain. I mean laughter is laughter, right? Wrong. Brains scanned in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) showed that the area of our brain triggered by laughter from a joke is not the same area triggered by a tickle.
For example tickles activate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain involved in regulating many functions, including visceral reactions. The part of the brain thought to be involved in anticipation of pain is activated with tickles. Researchers have always thought that people who are tickled react defensively. I know when my sister went after my sides or my husband tormented me on the bottoms of my feet, I would roll into a defensive ball and throw my hands up in front of me pleading for them to stop. That sure sounds defensive to me!
But humorous laughter activates the nucleus accumbens, which is thought to be part of the brain’s “pleasure center.” This center is part of higher order functions. Ticklish laughter did not activate these areas.
So even bad puns activating a laugh, no matter how feeble, activate a higher brain center. Disproving the notion that puns are the lowest form of humor, they activate the highest level of brain activity.