Why are we laughing? How is laughter born? Is it possible to control it? We asked Dr. med. , Professor, Department of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Medical Genetics, Pediatric Faculty, Russian National Research Medical University named after N.I. Pirogov Khondrakyan Garegin answer these questions.
- Laughter is a physiological feature inherent in every person from the moment he is born. This is one of our distinguishing features. Laughter is an indicator of positive emotions, a symptom of good mood. The laugh mechanism works not only from a joke heard or from the realization that the situation is ridiculous, but also from a desire to get close to a person or to show that we understand each other and we are pleasant to our interlocutor. Laughter is a universal way of communication that everyone understands and does not have a speech barrier.
Laughter from the point of view of physiology is a motor act, implying a reduction in the diaphragm and accompanied by the work of a vocal phenomenon (vocalization). Laughter is localized in the trunk (otherwise - in the bridge) of the brain. The cerebellum, which coordinates any human movement, the midbrain, and such a complex brain structure as the hypothalamus (regulates the neuroendocrine activity of the brain and homeostasis of the body), participates in the organization of laughter. The hypothalamus is connected by the nerve pathways to the entire central nervous system. A laughter team is formed in the cerebral cortex - with the participation of the frontal and temporal lobes.
The temporal lobe is responsible for instinctive behavior, for recognition. Thus, we can conclude: the physiology of laughter is the simultaneous inextricable coordinated work of the whole brain, which cannot be divided.
Laughter is directly controlled by emotions, their modulation. The limbic system (from Lat. limbus - "border, edge") is responsible for instinctive behavior and for our level of mood, it is localized in the temporal lobe.
The mechanism responsible for emotions is scattered throughout the brain: partly in the cortex, partly in the temporal lobe. Emotions or instinctive behavior were transmitted to us from the animal world. Memories that have an emotional connotation are best remembered - in this way, we can laugh alone with ourselves, reproducing them with the help of memory.
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A phenomenon close to laughter is crying.
So, the baby at the initial stage of his life cries easily and laughs easily. The quick start of these similar mechanisms in a child is easily explained by the immature system of the brain stem, which is poorly controlled by the cerebral cortex. With strong laughter, there is great activity in this zone, the structure of tears lying next to it is affected, and in this case, through the large stony nerve, the lacrimal canal opens. Therefore, it is quite physiological to laugh and cry at the same time. Convulsive vocal movements are similar: laughter - laughter, crying - sobbing.
The most important role is played by the brake mechanism, which gives the command about the appropriateness of laughter and holds its under control. When we understand humor or a joke, the brain gives a command to laugh, but at the same time, it can slow down this laugh. Damage to any part of the brain gives an instant failure in the mechanism of inhibition. Then an inappropriate laugh arises - violent. Disinhibition of reflexes causes violent (pathological) laughter, for example, with cerebellar damage (stroke).
It is worth noting that with age we laugh less - as in any mechanical act, year after year, the braking system works more and more. This pattern concerns not only laughter. For example, in the prime of life, we move a lot, the body performs a lot of movements, even if they are not required, but an elderly person spends his energy economically and accurately.
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Often we find a mechanism contagious laughter, in which a group of people laughs, but every single person can not understand what is humor.
In this case, the so-called induction behavior of the crowd is triggered, which activates the brain systems responsible for the laughter.
Do we enjoy laughing? No, we get pleasure from jokes, from humor, ridiculous situations that increase our mood. Actually, high mood is pleasure.
A low mood (dysthymia) or a state of mild depression is a feature of a particular person associated with a personality type. She can accompany him through life without any connection with the environment and for no apparent reason.
The forced inclusion of the nervous system through actions such as running, fighting, fear and sex, exclude the start of the inclusion of the mechanism of laughter.
The stereotype that laughter supposedly prolongs life does not has evidence base. Often we hear that some mythical British scientists have proved something, but this is only a crude and unproven theory. Such serious statements can be made only after a long study. Take a group of people of the same age, one gender, divide into two subgroups - just make some laugh, but not the other.
And only at the end of the life of the participants in the experiment, comparing the years of their lives, to calculate by what factor life has increased and whether it has increased. So far, no scientific institute has conducted such a study.
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