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Your Brain on Humor

August 28, 2019

Finding time for one joke in your day may make you smarter, healthier, sexier and happier.

It’s no joke that at Pisgah Valley we like to have fun and that laughter can be the best medicine (no pun intended) but do you know exactly how laughter activates the brain and the multiple benefits we receive following a good belly laugh?

elderly lady belly laughing

The brain is filled with opioid receptors made of specialized proteins. These receptors poke out of our neurons like little antennas trying to pick up passing signals. When the right kind of molecule connects with a receptor such as endorphin it can kick off a cascade of brain activity. This activity results in feel-good neurotransmitters and other chemicals that create a feeling of pleasure. Much like physical exercise to work the muscles of the body in order to keep us moving with good quality, the brain must be worked – and the weight of choice for the brain is INFORMATION.

Neuroscientists Ori Amir and his mentor, Irving Biederman have studied laughter and its effects on the brain. They found that jokes may have the same effect on the brain as processing difficult information such as solving a puzzle or untangling a rope. “Biederman and Amir theorized that because humor requires the brain to process lots of distinct types of information, funny revelations would activate different and more disparate parts of the brain than unfunny ones. This would excite neurons even more, which would lead to the release of more neurotransmitters and activation of the reward centers of the brain. So in that sense, instead of an aha moment, you get a haha moment” with multiple wellness benefits.

Humor helps our brain health in less obvious ways too. As mentioned earlier, laughter can be the best medicine and ultimately act as a natural stress reliever, and our brains work more efficiently when they aren’t slowed down by unnecessary worry. Here are a few of the other powers humor can provide:

  • Forces people to consider different perspectives.
  • Brings people together. A large study performed in 38 cultures worldwide showed that amongst both males and females, the sexes prefer mates with higher IQ’s. Since humans don’t display their IQ’s on their person, the western world recognizes intelligence by one’s sense of humor. In other words, a funny person is more attractive than one who is more serious to a lot of possible mates.
  • Reduces pain associated with life’s difficulties and takes away the worry.
  • • Exercises the brain by hearing a joke. A joke presents a problem or incongruence and provides the solution in a way one would not suspect AKA the “punch line”. This requires much thought, life knowledge and quick wit resulting in laughter and satisfaction in understanding the punch line. Whew, that was a good workout! • Makes people happy by releasing feel good neurotransmitters.

    Finally, one must close an article about humor with a bad joke, right? Here is a joke that is borrowed from the famous Asheville Lazoom tour:

    “What are two reasons to wash your hands after using the restroom?
    Number 1 and number 2.

    Piore, Adam. Laugh Yourself Smarter. Readers Digest, 2019. p. 59

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Pisgah Valley

6 Rhododendron Way
Candler, NC 28715


Pisgah Villa

102 Holcombe Cove Road
Candler, NC 28715


Pisgah Manor

104 Holcombe Cove Road
Candler, NC 28715