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The Underlying Neural Functions

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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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

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.

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.

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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Laughter's Physical Power

We learn to laugh at a young age, most at infancy. Being able to laugh during our infancy years helps develop our muscles and upper body strength.

Every time we laugh, it activates many different areas of our brain because it takes a lot of work to be able to laugh, such as the motor cortex, the limbic system, and the frontal lobe. Moreover, laughter can actually help control our serotonin levels and is an actual antidote to stress.

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  • Chronic tinnitus, the one that lasts for more than six months, is a problem experienced by 50 to 60 million Americans.
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Burnout can be defined as a combination of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficiency. People who feel burned out may experience a lack of emotional energy to attend to their work, withdraw from colleagues and customers, and may feel incompetent as a result.

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