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Brain Activation during Sight Gags and Language-Dependent Humor

Watson, Karli K. and Matthews, Benjamin J. and Allman, John M. (2007) Brain Activation during Sight Gags and Language-Dependent Humor. Cerebral Cortex, 17 (2). pp. 314-324. ISSN 1460-2199. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhj149.

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Humor is a hallmark of human discourse. People use it to relieve stress and to facilitate social bonding, as well as for pure enjoyment in the absence of any apparent adaptive value. Although recent studies have revealed that humor acts as an intrinsic reward, which explains why people actively seek to experience and create humor, few have addressed the cognitive aspects of humor. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to differentiate brain activity induced by the hedonic similarities and cognitive differences inherent in 2 kinds of humor: visual humor (sight gags) and language-based humor. Our findings indicate that the brain networks recruited during a humorous experience differ according to the type of humor being processed, with high-level visual areas activated during visual humor and classic language areas activated during language-dependent humor. Our results additionally highlight a common network activated by both types of humor that includes the amygdalar and midbrain regions, which presumably reflect the euphoric component of humor. Furthermore, we found that humor activates anterior cingulate cortex and frontoinsular cortex, 2 regions in the brain that are known to have phylogenetically recent neuronal circuitry. These results suggest that humor may have coevolved with another cognitive specialization of the great apes and humans: the ability to navigate through a shifting and complex social space.

Item Type:Article
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Matthews, Benjamin J.0000-0002-8697-699X
Additional Information:© 2006 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. Published: 02 March 2006. We would like to thank R. McKell Carter and John O'Doherty for their comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Swartz Foundation. Conflict of Interest: None declared.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
David and Lucille Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Swartz FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:anterior cingulate, cartoons, evolution, fMRI, frontoinsula, jokes
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200721-133210371
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Official Citation:Karli K. Watson, Benjamin J. Matthews, John M. Allman, Brain Activation during Sight Gags and Language-Dependent Humor, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 17, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 314–324,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:104483
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:21 Jul 2020 21:16
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:32

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