This is what exactly goes on in your brain when you are in a funny situation or under stress...

Essay by seppeiUniversity, Master'sA, October 2003

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Humor, Laughter and the Brain

While comedians have spent a great deal of time focusing on humor and laughter, scientists mostly ignored the subject. In recent years, however, several groups of researchers started to scrutinize this form of merriment. Their investigations are shedding light on how the brain processes humor and prompts laughter. Researchers believe that uncovering the brain and body's specific response to positive stimuli like humor and laughter may lead to new therapies.

What do you get if you cross a student with an alien? Something from another universe-ity!

You'll also get unique activity in the brain if you think this joke is funny, according to increasing evidence. The new investigations into how humor and laughter influence the brain are leading to:

·A clearer understanding of how positive emotions affect brain mechanisms.

·Creative ideas for new therapies for emotion disorders and pain.

While many researchers have tracked the brain mechanisms of depression, fear and anger, they mostly ignored positive emotions.

In recent years, however, a troupe of scientists has started to take laughter and humor much more seriously. Some new work teases out how the brain processes a funny experience.

While it's still in an early phase, studies suggest that on a simple level the complex process involves three main brain components. One part, a cognitive thinking part, helps you get the joke. A second movement part helps move the muscles of the face to smile and laugh. And a third emotional part helps produce the happy feelings that accompany a mirthful experience.

In one of the new studies, researchers used imaging equipment to photograph the brain activity of healthy volunteers while they underwent a sidesplitting assignment of reading written jokes, viewing cartoons from The New Yorker magazine as well as Gary Larson's "The Far Side" and listening...