The science of laughter - and why it also has a dark side - Deepstash
The science of laughter - and why it also has a dark side

The science of laughter - and why it also has a dark side


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The science of laughter - and why it also has a dark side

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It is generally considered a positive emotion and is a vital social, emotional and cognitive function. It is a communal activity that encourages bonding, reduces any possible conflict, and eases stress and anxiety. Laughter can be classified in different types:

  • Genuine and spontaneous
  • Simulated or fake
  • Stimulated (from tickling, for example)
  • Induced (by drugs)
  • Pathological


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The complex emotion of laughter has the power to override other emotions. The neurotransmitters (brain circuits) are controlling the facial muscles and vocal architecture, giving priority to positive emotions.

There are several brain pathways that contribute to laughter, like the regions of decision-making, behavior control, and our brains emotional circuitry.


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Various studies and research have shed some light on the underlying neural functions of the brain features that result in laughter being expressed by the body.

Pseudobulbar Affect Syndrome is a condition involving an unsettling exhibition of laughter, characterized by frequent, involuntary and uncontrollable outbursts of laughing and crying. This Syndrome is due to a disconnect between the frontal pathways of the brainstem, which control emotional drives, and is associated with several disorders like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and stroke.


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Abnormal brain wiring gives rise to a number of specific conditions:

  • Dementia: A twisted sense of humor and laughing at inappropriate times can be an indication of dementia.
  • Gelotophobia: An intense fear of being laughed at.
  • Gelotophilia: A pleasure obtained from being laughed at.
  • Katagelasticism: The joy of laughing at others.


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Laughter may have a dark side, but it is generally a positive emotion, as it enhances cardiovascular functions, fortifies our immune and endocrine systems.

Laughter therapy has amazing positive effects on our body and mind like an increase of serotonin levels, decreased stress and anxiety, improved respiration, and an enhancement in mood and resilience.


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