Essay on Laughter

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"Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it." --E. B. White

Why do people laugh? Laughter is contagious and therapeutic. It helps us cope with stress, and relax with friends. It is an indication of happiness, the sole reason we go on living. But what causes people to laugh? People laugh at jokes, semantic humor, which relies on cognitive ability to process the "humor" therein, or sometimes at slapstick type behavior requiring no intellectual understanding. People laugh at different things and for different reasons, and for the few that are interested at the expense of the frog, it can be interesting to investigate.

Every individual varies in their neurological pathways
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Using functional magnetic resource imaging, scientists at the Institute of Neurology in London scanned the brains of people listening to jokes, and found that for example, semantic jokes, playing on the meaning of words, activate the posterior temporal lobe, and puns, which work with the sound of words, activate the left inferior prefrontal cortex. At any rate, however the input is initially processed to be found incongruous with normal expectations, the median ventral prefrontal cortex is signaled to handle the response. This area is incidentally also involved in the reward system in humans and primates, explaining why humor and laughter are enjoyable and continue to be sought as a form of entertainment (2).

Primates laugh too? As Robert R. Provine puts it, "chimpanzee laughter has the sound and cadence of a handsaw cutting wood," explaining why one might not recognize the laughter responses of animals (3). Furthermore, the laughter response of rats is merely an ultrasonic chirp (4). Animals lack the cognitive complexity that humans possess, restricting the less advanced, such as rats, to laughter induced only by tickling. However, the rats that chirped most were also the most eager to be tickled (4). This corroborates allegations that the reward system of the prefrontal cortex is responsible for the enjoyment of laughter. This reward system is involved in the compulsion to continue all

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