Neurobiology of Humour

F. Frank LeFever flefever at ix.netcom.com
Mon Jul 27 21:18:13 EST 1998


Two comments: (1) try using "gelastic" as a search term; as in
"gelastic seizures".  Not that the neurology of laughter is the same as
neurobiology of HUMOUR, but perhaps this is relevant to a notion of a
"final common path"...

(2) The reference to pathological laughing and crying after stroke
probably refers to pseudobulbar palsy, with which I've had some
experience. (Occurs with many more conditions than unilateral
stroke;more often subcortical disconnection of higher from lower
centers--e.g. as in MS)  Classically, this is not at the core of either
grief or of humour; a term sometimes used for this condition is
"emotional incontinence".  That is, it is a dyscontrol syndrome,
analogous to a release of primitive motor reflexes after cortical
injury.

Some intellectully intact patients  with this condition are able to
tell you that they are only slightly amused or only slightly sad, or
perhaps have just happened to have heard or said something associated
with humour or with sadness, and are embarassed at their own outbursts.

More germaine to HUMOUR per se, rather than reactions to it, might be
sensitivity to the sort of ambiguity which is at the basis of most
humour.  (bytheway, can I call it "humor"? I'm an American) There are a
lot of data suggesting tht right hemisphere lesions can sometimes leave
people rather concrete and literal-minded, not alert to double
meanings, metapohorical usages, etc., and thereby at risk to be
humor-impaired.

Again, late at night, at home, far from my files, unable to recall the
name of someone who has done a lot of work in this area...someone in
Boston...mayhbe 10-15 yrs ago??  Maybe with Laird Cermak as a
co-author??

Oh, yes, re pseuudobulbar palsy: psychiatrists at my hospital often
treat it successfully with SSSI reuptake inhibitors (e.g. Prozac).

F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
New York Neuropsychology Group



In <6pi9f2$e0i$1 at fremont.ohsu.edu> Matt Jones <jonesmat at ohsu.edu>
writes: 
>
>In article <35BA8774.A047C5D7 at tyenet.com> Rod O'Connor,
>roconnor at tyenet.com writes:
>>Could anyone suggest a few references regarding the neurobiology of
>>humour or laughter?
>
>Here's a few from a medline search on "laughter":
>
>Nature 1998 Feb 12;391(6668):650 
>Electric current stimulates laughter.
>Fried I, Wilson CL, MacDonald KA, Behnke EJ
>
>New Dir Child Dev 1997;77:5-24 
>Communication of smiling and laughter in mother-infant play: research
on
>emotion from a dynamic systems perspective.
>Fogel A, Dickson KL, Hsu H, Messinger D, Nelson-Goens GC, Nwokah E
>
>Percept Mot Skills 1997 Dec;85(3 Pt 2):1291-1302 
>Polygraphic evaluation of laughing and smiling in schizophrenic and
>depressive patients.
>Sakamoto S, Nameta K, Kawasaki T, Yamashita K, Shimizu A
>
>Pathological laughter and crying in unilateral stroke. 
>Stroke. 1997 Nov; 28(11): 2321.
>
>Social drinking and laughter. 
>Psychol Rep. 1997 Oct; 81(2): 684. 
>
>Effects of alcohol on responsive laughter and amusement.
>Lowe G, Taylor SB
>
>Here's the entire abstract for this last one.  Apparently, the joke's
on
>whatever funding organization paid for the study ;-)
>
>"After consuming either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverage, 48
>subjects viewed a humorous film. Frequency of responsive laughter and
>subjective amusement was significantly greater in the alcohol group."
>
>There are a few neurological disorders (e.g., Angelman syndrome) where
>one of the symptoms is paroxysmal laughter. It's unlikely that this is
a
>particularly funny disease.
>
>And I have a request:
>Anyone with offerings on "The Humour of Neurobiology", please post it
>here.
>
>
>Cheers,
>
>Matt Jones




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