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Illusion Chasers

Illusions, Delusions, and Everyday Deceptions
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Ticklish laughter tickles your brain

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Neuroscience can be lots of fun, but perhaps even more so when researchers study the brain’s Laughter Perception Network. This is no laughing matter: In a PloS One study out today, Dirk Wildgruber and his colleagues at three different universities in Germany and the UK, found that the brain responds differently to fMRI imaging of ticklish versus socially complex laughter (joyful and taunting laughter) areas of the brain.

You can try the different sounds files below (I recommend listening to the evil taunting cackle in particular).

Sound S1 (WAV). Exemplar of joyful laughter.

Sound S2 (WAV). Exemplar of tickling laughter.

Sound S3 (WAV). Exemplar of taunting laughter.

The authors concluded that different types of human laughter modulate connectivity in different, but partially overlapping brain regions.

I assume that none of the experimental participants suffered from gelotophobia. It’s not an irrational aversion to Italian ice cream, but the fear of being laughed at.


Susana Martinez-Conde About the Author: Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik are laboratory directors at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Follow on Twitter @illusionchasers.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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