Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:31, 3:31 and 5:49 a.m.

Scientists explore how our brain interprets different kinds of laughter

We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you!  Or are we?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Primates, the non-human ones, use what's called reflex laughter to bond:  How?   Duh!  They tickle each other!  Tickling stimulates specific nerves.  These link to brain regions that generate knee-jerk chuckles!

Human laughter is more evolved.  In addition to tickling laughter, our repertoire includes social laughter.  Laughter with a message, it conveys joy, mocking, and plenty more.

German neuropsychiatrists wondered:  What happens in our brains during these various laughters?

To find out, they played laughter recordings to male college students.  While they listened, functional magnetic resonance imaging captured images of their brain activity.

Results?  During joyful and mocking laughter, brain areas that process complex social information became active.  Not so for tickling.

In surveys, the students identified recordings of social laughter more accurately than tickling laughter.

The researchers say this shows we process social laughters much like we process language. This helps us react appropriately to others.

Like when they tickle us for science.  And we slap them.  Laughingly of course!

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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