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Humour and Neural Networks

David dhe at eden.rutgers.edu
Sat Nov 11 13:47:12 EST 1995

Philip Dorrell (p at dorrell.demon.co.uk) writes,

> I have formed a theory of Humour that explains it in terms of neural
> network learning.

[details deleted]

> I have been wondering if there exist individuals who suffer a
> neurological deficiency that involves a lack of sense of
> humour. Further symptoms might include a readiness to accept bizarre
> belief systems (religion ?). In fact the patient may have a catalog
> of bizarre symptoms including lack of sense of humour, and it may be
> the lack of humour that is actually the primary cause of the
> condition.

Have you really postulated such a condition _a priori_, with no
knowledge that it's been described in the literature?  If so, I'm
impressed, and YOU'LL be VERY happy to learn about the interictal
syndrome of temporal-lobe epilepsy, first described by Steven Waxman
and Norman Geschwind in a 1975 issue of _Archives of General
Psychiatry_.  A follow-up study by Bear et al. was published in 1982.

And if you want to place your "ridiculousness detector" somewhere in
the temporal lobe, you'll also be pleased to hear that intraoperative
stimulation of the parahippocampal and fusiform gyri caused one woman
to experience feelings of mirth and silliness that made her laugh out
loud.  Her gelastic [laughing] seizures had been localized to the same
area.  [Arroyo S. et al. _Brain_ 116(4): 757-780, 1993.]

And if you want to speculate about extrinsic inhibitory influences on
your "ridiculousness detector," don't forget about patients with
orbitofrontal lesions, who are prone to inappropriate jocularity and

--David Epstein
  dhe at eden.rutgers.edu

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