Epilepsy Talk

Laughter as effective as cocaine? | November 28, 2021

Yup. A comic cartoon fires up the same brain center as a shot of cocaine, researchers report.

A team at Stanford University in California asked lab mates, spouses and friends to select the wittiest newspaper cartoons from a portfolio. They showed the winning array to 16 volunteers while peering inside their heads with an MRI.

The cartoons activated the same reward circuits in the brain that are tickled by cocaine, money or a pretty face, the neuroscientists found. (Wow!)

One brain region in particular, the nucleus accumbens, lit up seconds after a rib-tickler but remained listless after a lackluster cartoon.

The nucleus accumbens is awash with the “feel good” chemical dopamine. And the region’s “buzz” may explain the euphoria that follows a good joke, the team suggests.

“Intuitively, it makes sense,” agrees Bill Kelley, who studies humor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Earlier investigations found that humor triggers brain regions that work out a joke’s language and meaning.

Kelley, for example, has studied people’s brains while they watched episodes of television comedies Seinfeld and The Simpsons.

A powerful MRI machine and a particularly detailed analysis picked up activity in the reward areas, suggests lead researcher Allan Reiss who hopes that the finding could help to diagnose the early stages of depression or show whether antidepressants are taking effect when people’s appreciation of humor is altered.

More scientific evidence…

Laughter can also improve your EEG results!

Scientists traced the brainwave activity of people responding to funny material when hooked up to an EEG and measured their brain activity when they laughed.

In each case, the brain produced a regular electrical pattern. Because, less than a half-second after exposure to something funny, an electrical wave moves through the cerebral cortex.

If the wave takes a negative charge, laughter results. If it maintains a positive charge, no response is given at all.

Next, the left hemisphere analyzes the words and structures of the joke.

The right hemisphere “gets” the joke. The visual sensory area of the occipital lobe creates images. The limbic (emotional) system makes you happier and the motor sections make you smile or laugh.

Try it, you’ll like it…

Human beings love to laugh, and the average adult laughs 17 times a day, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

But, not all laughter is alike.

There’s the superiority theory when we laugh at jokes that focus on someone else’s mistakes, stupidity or misfortune. (Now you wouldn’t do that would you?)

Then there’s the relief aspect. (Whew!) That’s the one that relieves tension and acts as an escape mechanism. (According to Dr. Lisa Rosenberg, humor, especially dark humor, can help workers cope with stressful situations. “The act of producing humor, of making a joke, gives us a mental break and increases our objectivity in the face of overwhelming stress,” she says.)

And then the awkward cover-up. If I laugh at myself first, maybe you’ll laugh along with me and not notice my embarrassment.

And also the “make ’em laugh” concept. Lighten and brighten things up. I bet if you were in a room full of people and started a good, genuine belly laugh, others would start to smile, then laugh, because laughter is catching.

In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body.

It relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress. It dissolves negative emotions. It dispels anger.

After all, how can you be angry if you’re laughing? Or depressed. Or laden down with troubles?

Science even proves it.

So, get happy! And skip the cocaine…

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  1. I agree! Thank you for sharing!

    I’m currently taking a Science of Happiness class through EdX which contains a lot of similar data. I’ve found it to be the best improvement to my overall well-being and they have humor courses I plan to take at least one of next. In addition to being natural, yet scientifically supported, these approaches to wellbeing are also empowering rather than needy, lucky, dependent, et cetera.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lahla — November 28, 2021 @ 12:10 PM

  2. The title is triggering for me. My doctor and other discussed the side effects of illicit drugs in my system or just keeping to my AEDs before illicit drugs were set up as they are as ‘medical treatments’.
    When prescribed by a doctor.

    Again I stated that it’s my body and I wanted to stay away from what I’ve seen… One my doctors stayed quiet but was pleased with my decision. The others were as I have read up on them now whether it’s truth or heresy that they were working on creating and studying what the “new drugs” were doing too long ago. That doctor talked about the side effects to the body and the brain to me, before I could even say anything about seeing my other doctor and we agreed “No!”

    Decide what you want… But I’m just typing what I’ve barely even being through in over a decade.

    I live with Epilepsy and I don’t use or abuse substances. But because my Epileptic Seizures went out of control because of other people’s ahem business and my stress of my apartment being broke & entered my family name being slandered because of rumors and gossip.
    I was locked out of my apartment and my belongings were in there and my Cat was too!
    I was locked out of the apartment that was mine because of ease dropping and so many rumors and gossip that never stopped about me using alcohol and abusing drugs… I had people shout that to my face after I came out of Epileptic Seizures in public places!!

    It’s like I’m living in the 1900’s when the Quintet sisters were alive if you ever heard about “Canada’s biggest mistake!!”
    One of the young girls was shocked to death when she had her last Epileptic seizure at 16/21. It was part of the Canada’s Heritage commercials.

    Still one thing rings out Its against MY Human Rights and I’ve never been so Violated…
    I can’t even phone my family and friends because of theft! The police in the city that I’m in when I’ve been in the station have worn body cams or told me that they are contagious!!

    Why?! Why should I be going through this?!
    I spoken to a lawyer… Alice in Wonderland and Cheshire Cat make more sense than they do!!
    When did “No mean yes! And Yes mean No?!?!”
    No where that I was taught or 🤕

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Paige — November 29, 2021 @ 2:47 PM

    • Paige, I hardly think this has anything to do with laughter. 😒


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 29, 2021 @ 3:56 PM

      • Neither is being put in Status Epilepticus 3 times and a Coma!
        The first time returning to my apartment from a hospital for Epileptic reasons and still getting used to being on my AEDs and wishing to hell that the news was opposite… Going back to somewhere I knew I wasn’t safe nor my Cat, I was back to the apartment building and I’m triggered. My first case of Status Epilepticus!
        I remember crawling on the floor so that I wouldn’t get hurt and I could do TMI during the seizures that never stopped until I ended up (I don’t know how though I know In my head called 911)

        No one to date has told me anything and I have asked.
        I just woke up in ICU a week later treated like dirt although the emergency staff knew who I would be and that I live with Epilepsy!!

        It wasn’t supposed to be funny. This person was trying to kill me!


        Comment by Paige — November 29, 2021 @ 11:34 PM

  3. The Value of Laughter – I left out a word so I don’t get tangled with a copyrite cosa (thing). But I agree with the title – ‘ha-ha-ha is like a drug’.

    With temporal lobe epilepsy, we can be slowed down with short term memory so I’ve seen both 1984 Ghostbuster’s – over 70 times. You concentrate for 25 or 30 minutes then just watch it. Then each following time you see or hear something NEW on the set/scene. After 40 times I muted it 30X then you don’t watch who’s talking and someone’s eyebrows go up…while you know Bill Murray is saying something.
    The first sentance is taken from the Patch Adams movie with Robin William’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by leonchavarria — December 1, 2021 @ 8:32 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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