Neurological Development of Laughter

I was watching this youtube video the other day and it got me thinking.

Why was this baby laughing so much and then so scared?  I mean, I understand that kids can be afraid of the boogey monster, but I thought this might have been taking it a little far.  There is a look of shear terror on this child’s face.  When was the last time that you’ve been that scared?  Or for that matter, been that happy?  This apparent range of emotions was intriguing.

So what’s actually going on?  According to Discovery Health, researches have already used an EEG to measure the brain waves stimulated during laughter.  They reported:

  • The left side of the cortex (the layer of cells that covers the entire surface of the forebrain) analyzed the words and structure of the joke.
  • The brain’s large frontal lobe, which is involved in social emotional responses, became very active.
  • The right hemisphere of the cortex carried out the intellectual analysis required to “get” the joke.
  • Brainwave activity then spread to the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the area on the back of the head that contains the cells that process visual signals).
  • Stimulation of the motor sections evoked physical responses to the joke.
  • They Hypothalamus (what I do my pain research on) has been seen as the major contributor to loud, uncontrollable laughter.

Lawrence Kutner, a psychologist teaching at Harvard Medical School, explains that the humor that this baby might be experiencing can be compared to the developmental problems that the baby is currently facing.  Like when kids are learning how to move onto “big-boy” underwear and they still find jokes about the toilet so funny they wet their pants.

Even if we don’t know the exact mechanism as to why we might find blowing someones nose extremely scary or belly-splitting funny, we can all agree on one thing: that baby is darn cute.

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