Re: Laughing

From: Mika Naimark (
Date: Sun 01 Dec 2002 - 09:45:18 GMT

  • Next message: William Benzon: "Re: Laughing"

    Dear list members,
     for many years I was looking for publications and information concerning the phenomenon of laughter, to refute or confirm the following ideas:

     Human laughter is not entirely unique -- cat's purring is another sample of the same nature. Here I mean a peculiar condition of the brain, socially expressed in small periodical convulsions of the body, and corresponding periodical sounds. The sounds seem to result from the said convulsions interference with breathing.

    Frequency of cat's purring is surprisingly stable, independent of the animals posture, same when inhaling and exhaling; on human laghter I have no scientific data, but the frequency seems to be stable for each individual, and varying notably with differnt individuals. It is also impossible to alter that frequency even slightly by conscious effort -- laughter becomes
    "insincere" and instantly vanishes.

    Laughter frequency happens to be close to that of human brain delta waves
    (around 3Hz), which appear in drowsiness and NREM sleep. Cat brain has a similar drowsiness waves that have frequency around 10Hz, also falling close to cat purring frequency.

    The amplitude of synchronous discharges in delta waves is so high in comparioson to more "random" discharges in wakefulness, thah it is no wonder this signal might eventually penetrate through whatever filters brain has to block it, and appear on motor neurones, causing body convulsions of the same frequency.

    So could it not be that both laughter and purr first originated from the convulsions of the sort, and then naturally developed into social messages, demonstrating the relaxed, comfortable and drowsy (certainly, not agressive) state of the brain? (By the way laughter has a refreshing effect like a nap, has it not?) This message can be very difficult to fake and forge on purpose. If true, this would mean that meme of laughter "is linked" to those genes, which are responsible for brain waves.

    Were EEG ever taken from a laughing people synchronously with their laughter sound track, and compared? Were the same done with purring cats? In what parts of nervous system (or other body parts) the laughter frequency is generated? Is it in the similar parts that purr is generated in? It would be very interesting to learn about some researches in the field. So far I could not find such publications.

    With Respect,

    Naimark M.

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