What part of the brain controls laughter?

At least once a day we all laugh for one reason or another, to a lesser or greater extent. But did you ever wonder what laughter is or why we laugh? What happens in your brain while you laugh? Laughing is something very important in our lives and the body derives its benefits from it.

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’What part of the brain controls laughter?’’ We will discover why human beings laugh and what happens in the body and brain while we laugh.

What part of the brain controls laughter?

There are two structures of the limbic system involved in the production of laughter: the amygdala and the hippocampus.

Smiling in society reduces tension, generates attachment, encourages acceptance of individuals in complex groups, increases attention and homogenizes culturally.

Laughing within a group of friends is a code of approval, in the office it reduces tension, in the family it predisposes to better communication. A sequence of laughs with your partner can help you have a better make-out session.

The human brain tends to be happy, it constantly promotes it, although having more elements to reflect on or to be sad, the nature of our cerebral cortex looks for elements to calm down and feel that all is not wrong.

Laughter in the human brain as a social response appears after the third month of life, never to disappear. A study from the University of Ontario reports that adults laugh an average of 18 times a day, children tend to laugh three to five times more.

The phonetics of laughter is universal, in all cultures the same language of a laugh or a laugh is accepted. Smiling is a form of coexistence.

In order to laugh, the contexts are important: social and psychological (age, language, social origin, expectation of the joke and even day-month schedule, etc.);

For example, the humor of the Americans is usually acid and ironic, in relation to the English, they laugh more with self-criticism, Latinos tend to laugh at absurd associations and the use of the double meaning of words.

A joke is accompanied by a laugh if we usually share it between several individuals of the same group or age.

The joke works best when we announce it, when there are expectations that an outcome is coming. The effect of a laugh is more valued at night and on days close to the weekend or on vacation.

The importance of humor lies in the analysis, in the projection and the mockery of the everyday, only 11% of what we laugh is for a new concept, on average 70% of jokes, anecdotes or jokes are a parody of what we do every day To laugh we use the regions of our intelligent brain, associated with the regions of memory.

What is laughter?

Hard question! Let’s start with something worth mentioning, which is that human beings are one of the very few species that laugh (some species of primates laugh too). There is much evidence to show that laughing is good for humans, that it has health benefits, and that it even helps prevent some diseases.

We could say laughter is the movement of the mouth and other parts of the face, which shows joy. It is also the sound that accompanies laughter and also what moves us to laugh.

But that way it seems too simple to us. By carefully analyzing laughter, we must differentiate it from what we call humor. Laughter is a physiological response to humor and consists of two elements: the movements of the face and the sound that is emitted.

These two elements occur after an order issued by the brain as an impulse and are sometimes also accompanied by movements in the extremities and trunk muscles.

What happens in the body when you laugh?

While a person is laughing, fifteen facial muscles contract and the zygomaticus major muscle is constantly stimulated. The respiratory system also receives alterations and its functioning changes because the epiglottis closes the pharynx in certain proportions, producing irregularities in the entry of air.

When someone laughs for a long time and in intense situations, the tear ducts open and drop a few tears (if you’ve never cried laughing, you’re boring).

All these changes make the face moisten and take on a reddish color, sometimes with greater intensity and in cases even purple. Meanwhile, a strange sound accompanies this event.

Researcher Robert Provine, a psychologist and professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, in one of his studies on the different effects of laughter in human beings, analyzed the sonic structure of laughter in different people.

As a result, he discovered that the sound consists of tiny notes that repeat every 210 milliseconds.

This sound is characterized by always having the same tonality and never by being a mixture of different tones. As an example, the laughter of some can be expressed something like “ha-ha-ha” or “ho-ho-ho” but never as “ha-ho-ha”.

Robert also points out that when listening to laughter, our brain through a kind of detector activates certain neural circuits in the brain related precisely to laughter and that also increases the intensity of it, something that would explain why laughter is contagious.

Why do we laugh?

Some experts and scholars of the question itself, such as the philosopher John Morreall, point out that thousands of years ago, laughter could occur as a satisfactory response of relief after getting rid of a problem or situations that implied danger. In time, laughter would become a kind of signal as a social habit.

Thus, many researchers argue that laughter is related to making and strengthening human relationships, another reason that, together with the innate desire of men to try not to be left out of the group, could explain its contagious nature.

Among other aspects, Morreall also points out that laughter is something like a game that involves exercising power and dominance over others. Being the one who controls or the one who produces laughter in the group, would be signifying that control over it, for example when a boss makes jokes with little sense but his employees laugh anyway.

Many researchers analyze laughter in different ways, however, none can determine an absolutely certain reason about the reasons why each individual laughs.

What happens in the brain while you laugh?

Did you know that there is a discipline that is responsible for studying this? Well yes, Gelotology is the science that studies the different effects of laughter on the body and on the psyche. Thanks to some of the studies in this science, we can know what happens to our brain while we laugh.

There are different regions of the brain that are responsible for certain functions in behavior, such as the frontal lobe that is responsible for emotional responses, but in the case of laughter, something different happens: several parts of the brain work.

While someone laughs, different things happen in the brain. The left region of the cortex analyzes all the events that may or may not produce laughter. The frontal lobe, in charge of emotional responses, increases its activity.

The right brain hemisphere is responsible for understanding and understanding the joke or funny fact itself and finally, the motor sections are responsible for the physical and sound response: laughter.

But one part, in particular, seems to be fundamental in laughter and this is the limbic system. This part of the brain is essential in many of the basic behaviors that preserve life. In humans, it is related to motivation and emotional behavior, in addition to making the necessary connections for laughter to occur. A glitch there could literally take away a person’s sense of humor.

Laughter produces a general feeling of well-being in the body and benefits health on different levels, both physical and psychological.

In any case, there are still many things to discover and many aspects to analyze about laughter, for example when something is funny and especially what determines that something can cause laughter in some people while not in others?

What speculations could you formulate? What makes you laugh and why?

The importance of laughing

Happiness, joy, humor and laughter are positive phenomena necessary for our body. In most cases, and provided that it occurs in the appropriate contexts, these emotions have a clear adaptive function, on a personal and social level.

Normally, when we laugh with other people we are acting in a clearly prosocial way, giving them signals that we enjoy being with them, something that enhances relational bonds.

Laughter is a very important non-verbal component when it comes to communicating. It is the non-explicit way of indicating that what we are saying is either a joke or something that should be interpreted with humor.

For example, if we say something that seems to be serious but, at the same time, we laugh, it is as if we are taking iron out of the matter. Soften the blow and avoid having an awkward moment with other people, maintaining relationships.

And this is where it acquires its evolutionary importance. Laughter is a phenomenon that has been observed in other species, many of them close to humans (bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans) and has also been seen in foxes.

Laughter in the animal world serves to indicate that, when a certain action is being carried out, it is not serious, for example in “fights” or biting between foxes. It is his way of saying that “they are only playing, that there is nothing to worry about.”

Another important aspect of laughter is its regulatory function of group behavior, attributed to the fact that it can be infected. As with yawning and posture, laughter is contagious, causing members of a group to synchronize laughing all at the same time, even if they have no clear reason for it.

The reason why laughter is contagious has to do with some very important neurons for humans: mirror neurons. These neurons are very important in our behavior, since it is what allows us to replicate the gestures of others.

The same would happen with laughter: when we saw another person laugh, these neurons would be activated and we would replicate their behavior.

FAQS: What part of the brain controls laughter?

What is the part of your brain that makes you laugh?

The right frontal lobe of the brain is the center of processing that helps one to know when something is amusing.

What causes you to laugh?

We are happy to laugh; laughter connects us with other people and makes us feel good about ourselves. It is also very motivating. For example, humor can keep our attention on something. Jokes can stimulate thinking skills, and laughter also relieves tension.

Is a laugh attack a thing?

Pseudobulbar affect is a disease of the nervous system that can make you laugh, cry, or get upset without being able to regulate when it happens. Often referred to as PBA: Cognitive dysregulation.

When did humans start laughing?

In this sense, these professors from the University of Binghamton consider that the origin of laughter dates back to seven million years ago, with the gasps that hominids emitted when playing.

Does fake laughing release endorphins?

And even with a fake smile it works since the brain interprets it by the position of the muscles of the face. Endorphins make us feel happier and less stressed.

In this article we answered the question ‘’What part of the brain controls laughter?’’ We have discovered why human beings laugh and what happens in the body and brain while we laugh.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Gervais, M. & Wilson, D. S.. (2006). The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: A synthetic approach. The Quarterly review of biology. 80. 395-430. 10.1086/498281.

Baber, H., Donnelly, J., & Morreall, J. (1984, December). Taking Laughter Seriously. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from ResearchGate website: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324303385_Taking_Laughter_Seriously