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August 1, 2011

Why Clowns Taste Funny: The Relationship between Humor and Seman


Who Likes to Laugh? I do! I do!

This semester I have come across a rare breed of Chemistry Professor, a real proponent for comic relief and silly science jokes. The majority of the joke material is a cumulative effort from the students, TA?s and the enthusiast himself. Whether it be to lighten the mood while we sit through intense lecture or right before we start our exam, any joke that invokes laughter is always welcome. Ever wonder how something as simple as ?What do you do with a dead scientist? You Barium.? can make you chuckle?

Well thanks to some fabulous researchers in Cambridge, United Kingdom, we are a few steps closer to finding out how humor evolves from neurocognitive mechanisms for routine aspects of language comprehension. The researchers published their findings in the June 29 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, Why Clowns Taste Funny: The Relationship between humor and Semantic Ambiguity. It has provided the most fascinating research on the testing of subjects listening to jokes containing ambiguous and unambiguous words to see which areas of the brain were stimulated. One of the main components of a successful joke is the use of words that can be interpreted to have multiple meanings.

In this study they used MRI to delve deeper into the partnership between semantic ambiguity and humor and recent neuroimaging studies have showed us that jokes, funny TV shows, and visual all increase the brain activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior lobe. So, when testing jokes there was an increased activity in a network of the amygdala, ventral striatum, and the midbrain and all of these subcortical regions have been associated with experiencing positive reward. The distinction between jokes that don?t depend on ambiguity may be designed differently for selective amusement. The left inferior temporal gyrus and left inferior frontal gyrus is involved in the semantic aspects of understanding language and both have been shown to be activated in response to the unfunny semantic sentences used during the gathering of data.

Some have said that humor is a "cognitive cleanup" and that laughter is the public display of cleaning up your messy mind. Just a brief moment with a clean slate, some fresh endorphins, and a decrease of stress. If I could bottle up that feeling I would, but what if start to know too much? Do you think comedians would slowly increase their newly realized power over the mind? So let end with a humorus word... Mirth. A gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied by laughter and also quite a silly sounding word if I can say so myself. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mirth)

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