Why do we laugh? It’s a question that’s not really been answered clearly. Why? Because there really hasn’t been any problem that’s warranted a full investigation on laughter. Think about it – when has anyone gone to the doctor because they are laughing and feel good? Therefore, laughter has not been really experimented on as much as other things that have a far more pressing issue on society.
In 1998, a paper was published that detailed how the brain was involved in laughter. The paper details an experiment on a 16 year old girl, A.K., who was suffering from epilepsy – to which one of here symptoms were uncontrollable laughter. It was found that when a certain small part of her brain in the superior frontal gyrus was stimulated, she would laugh hysterically. Each time this part of the brain was stimulated, laughter ensued.
The scientists concluded that there were three parts of the brain that contributed to laughter – the emotional part, the cognitive part, and the motor part. This meant that it needed emotion, getting the joke, and then moving muscles as to laugh.
In the last decade, though, the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” has seen increasing popularity. However, what really happens in our body when we laugh? The physiological study of laughter explains that laughing is a lot more than just the voice and the movement. It’s a combination of a whole lot of things – some of them being: an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, changing breathing, a reduction of certain chemicals in our brain, and a boost to the immune system.
However, some of these effects only last a short while after laughter has stopped. That said, can it really improve health? Well, in some cases. Laughter releases tension in the muscles, promotes respiratory health, and might even give the heart a bit of a workout. Despite this, though, laughter might not always be beneficial, as there have been cases where laughter actually cause detrimental side effects like heart attacks – and in some rare cases death.
All of that being said, it’s quite nice to have a good loud laugh every now and then. For every potential harmful effect associated with laughter, there are 10 more positive ones. Don’t be scared to laugh. Live life a little dangerously – laugh away!