Laughter perception networks in brain different for mocking, joyful or ticklish laughter

May 8, 2013, Public Library of Science

A laugh may signal mockery, humor, joy or simply be a response to tickling, but each kind of laughter conveys a wealth of auditory and social information. These different kinds of laughter also spark different connections within the "laughter perception network" in the human brain depending on their context, according to research published May 8 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Dirk Wildgruber and colleagues from the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

Laughter in animals is a form of social bonding based on a primordial reflex to tickling, but human laughter has come a long way from these playful roots. Though many people laugh when they're tickled, 'social laughter' in humans can be used to communicate happiness, taunts or other conscious messages to peers. Here, researchers studied participants' neural responses as they listened to three kinds of laughter: joy, taunt and tickling.

"Laughing at someone and laughing with someone leads to different social consequences," says Wildgruber. "Specific cerebral connectivity patterns during perception of these different types of laughter presumably reflect modulation of attentional mechanisms and processing resources.

The researchers found that brain regions sensitive to processing more complex social information were activated when people heard joyous or taunting laughter, but not when they heard the 'tickling laughter'. However, 'tickling laughter' is more complex than the other types at the acoustic level, and consequently activated sensitive to this higher degree of acoustic complexity. These dynamic changes activated and connected different regions depending on the kind of laughter participants heard. Patterns of brain connectivity can impact cognitive function in health and disease. Though some previous research has examined how speech can influence these patterns, this study is among the first few to examine non-verbal vocal cues like laughter.

More information: Wildgruber D, Szameitat DP, Ethofer T, Bruck C, Alter K, et al. (2013) Different Types of Laughter Modulate Connectivity within Distinct Parts of the Laughter Perception Network. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63441. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063441

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The importins of anxiety

December 11, 2018
According to some estimates, up to one in three people around the world may experience severe anxiety in their lifetime. In a study described today in Cell Reports, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have revealed ...

Neurons in the brain work as a team to guide movement of arms, hands

December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm ...

How returning to a prior context briefly heightens memory recall

December 11, 2018
Whether it's the pleasant experience of returning to one's childhood home over the holidays or the unease of revisiting a site that proved unpleasant, we often find that when we return to a context where an episode first ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

Study: Age, race differences determine risk of stroke in women and men

December 11, 2018
A new study found that, between the ages of 45 and 74 years, white women were less likely to have a stroke than white men, but at age 75 and older, there was no difference in stroke risk between white women and men. In contrast, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.