Have you ever wondered why humans laugh? Some believe that early humans laughed as a sign of relief after some perceived danger. Laughter results in relaxation which inhibits the body’s biological flight or fight response and so is a great antidote to stress. The purpose of laughter is also important in the bonding between humans as laughter occurs when people are comfortable with each other. The more laughter there is, the more bonding takes place.
Did you know that the study of laughter is called gelotology? Which sounds like a joke in itself! Emotional responses come from the brain’s largest area, the frontal lobe. However, laughter is unique in that comes from various regions of the brain. The relationship between laughter and the brain is still not fully understood though. When scientists hooked up subjects to an electroencephalograph (EEG) within four tenths of a second of being exposed to something funny, an electrical wave moved theough the cerebral cortex. If the wave took a negative charge then laughter was produced and if it took a positive charge then there was no reaction.
Indeed it is the Limbic system in our brains that seems mainly involved with laughter. This is located beneath the cerebral cortex and is important as it controls some of the behaviours that are essential for life such as finding food and self-preservation. Even alligators have limbic systems but there’s are more attuned to things like smell, hunting and defending territory. Ours is more involved in emotional responses. For Comedians For Hire, visit https://thecomedyclub.co.uk/.
Laughter helps us to cope with stressful things like illness and bringing up children! But scientists now think that laughter does more than this. They say it can bring balance to all parts of the immune system, the major tool in our fight against disease. Laughter reduces stress hormones so in a way acts as a saftey valve and shuts off the flow of these hormones which are released when we feel angry, stressed or hostile. Stress hormones will suppress the immune system and raise blood pressure so laughter is really the warrior, fighting off the evil hormones trying to attack our defences.
Apparently when we laugh, we increase the number of killer cells that destroy tumours and viruses. These include T-cells which are a major part of immune response, Gamma-interferon which is a disease fighting protein and B-cells which create disease destroying antibodies. Sometimes cliches are true – laughter seems to be the best medicine.
Why we laugh seems to be an inherently social thing. Most people tend not to laugh when they’re on their own as the laugh is more a form of communication in most cases. Laughter is more than just a response to humour, it’s a primal tool and one of the building blocks of society. It goes to the core of us being social creatures and expresses an emotion that often cannot be said in any other way. It’s also pretty good for you, so carry on laughing!