What goes on in the brain when we hear a joke or watch a funny movie?
Scientists at Dartmouth were shocked at the results of MRI scans conducted on participants as they viewed Seinfeld and The Simpsons. The areas of the brain engaged in understanding the joke ( left inferior and posterior temporal cortices), were completely different than the areas that find it funny ( bilateral regions of the insular cortex and the amygdala). This revelation not only helps us understand why we can get the joke but not find it funny but also shows the complex cluster of mental gears that are activated.
A study conducted by Stanford researchers scanned the brains of subjects reading comic strips and found that the funniest cartoons caused chaos in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain that gets a rush when induced by cocaine and other addictive drugs. So maybe laughter is addictive too. Researchers at Stanford also discovered that women use more of their brains to process humor than men do. Results of MRI scans ran on both men and women as they watched cartoons revealed that women activated areas of the brain involved in language processing and working memory more than men did. So in other words, women think more when they see something funny than men do. Which could explain slapstick comedies don’t usually appeal to most women.