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Brain reacts differently to different types of laughter

A new study suggests that different types of laughter joyful, mocking and tickling make the brain react in different ways. A laugh may signal mockery, humour, and joy or simply be a response to tickling, but each kind of laughter conveys a wealth of auditory and social information.

Laughter in animals is a form of social bonding based on a primordial reflex to tickling, but human laughter has come a long way from these playful roots, researchers said. Though many people laugh when they're tickled, 'social laughter' in humans can be used to communicate happiness, taunts or other conscious messages to peers. Researchers studied participants' neural responses as they listened to three kinds of laughter: joy, taunt and tickling.

Laughing at someone and laughing with someone leads to different social consequences, said Dirk Wildgruber from the University of Tuebingen, Germany. Specific cerebral connectivity patterns during perception of these different types of laughter presumably reflect modulation of attentional mechanisms and processing resources, said Wildgruber.

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The researchers found that brain regions sensitive to processing more complex social information were activated when people heard joyous or taunting laughter, but not when they heard the 'tickling laughter'. However, 'tickling laughter' is more complex than the other types at the acoustic level, and consequently activated brain regions sensitive to this higher degree of acoustic complexity.

These dynamic changes activated and connected different regions depending on the kind of laughter participants heard. Patterns of brain connectivity can impact cognitive function in health and disease. Though some previous research has examined how speech can influence these patterns, this study is among the first few to examine non-verbal vocal cues like laughter. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

You may have heard the phrase, laughter is the best medicine but how often do you put this to practice in your real life? Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing(Pranayama). Anyone can laugh without relying on humour, jokes or comedy. Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases, this soon leads to real and contagious laughter. Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between simulated and real laughter. Laughter Yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of laughter exercises that combine the method of acting and visualisation techniques with playfulness. Read on to find out more about laughter yoga.

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