First, the information gets processed in the frontal lobe. We commonly use expressions like “a dead joke” or “over their head” or “tough crowd” to describe what happens when something “falls flat”. What really happens is, the frontal lobe decides the incoming information isn’t funny. More accurately, the frontal lobe’s processing determines whether or not we “get” what has happened. When we don’t find something humorous it is likely due to the fact that the frontal lobe simply couldn’t process the complexity, or the simplicity, of what has occurred. The frontal lobe could be seen as a “survey says”. A joke, or something humorous comes in. Survey says, according to the frontal lobe, it is either funny or it is not. If the survey dings positively and turns the light up wheel of “funniness” values all the way green, the information gets passed along through a series of reactions.
Next, the chemical momentum of something funny moves through the cerebral cortex. Memory, attention, awareness, thought, perception, and language happen within the cerebral cortex. Researchers believe that the cerebral cortex is where consciousness comes from. Electrical signals course through the cerebral cortex which then sends signals throughout the body, giving us those many different responses we have when something is funny. We might respond with shock, hysteria, laughter, happiness, and much more. Everyone laughs differently and responds to humor differently. Whether they silently chuckle or boom out a hearty belly laugh that can shake a building, the body acts in response to the stimuli.
Laughter, in turn, sends more signals to the brain which have benefit for mental and physical health. Patch Adams, a doctor famous for his quirky mannerisms, was convinced that laughter is the best form of medicine. He once described all the many positives which come from laughing. “Laughter enhances the blood flow to the body’s extremities and improves cardiovascular function,” he explained, adding that, “Laughter releases endorphins and other natural mood elevating and pain-killing chemicals….” The mood elevating and pain-killing chemicals Patch Adams references are dopamine, a chemical of pleasure, serotonin, a chemical for balancing mood, and opioid receptors, the brain’s natural pain-killing system. Laughter also “…improves the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to internal organs,” he continued, “…boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off disease, cancer cells as well as viral, bacterial and other infections.”
After a good hearty laugh or a many minute session of “cracking up” we feel better. We might make a remark like, “I needed that!” or “I didn’t realize how long its been since I laughed that hard.” Laughter is good for the mind, the body, and the soul. Having a sense of humor is proven to be beneficial for coping with the good and the bad in life as well as for keeping a positive mindset.
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