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29 January, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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The science of laughter

The science of laughter

We laugh at jokes (albeit not all jokes). We can also laugh sarcastically, nervously, when we are stressed, or even for no reason at all.  Our laughter may be uncontrollable or maniacal, and it might also be forced, faked, or purposefully prolonged. 
The laugh is so pervasive that it can hardly be ignored by scientists; it crosses all boundaries. Humans from every culture on earth laugh. Babies who are blind and deaf, having neither seen someone laugh nor heard the sound of laughter, still laugh. 
Something as ubiquitous as this odd expulsion of sound and air must be important. 
In this article, we will take a brief look at the origins of laughter and what happens in the brain when we are amused. We will also take a wander through the scientific literature to examine whether laughter has the ability to relieve medical conditions. 
Laughter is a trait we share with our nearest cousins, the great apes. This means that it was, more than likely, an ancient invention that has been retained over millennia. As with most things that evolution preserves, it must be useful. 
One odd but insightful study involved tickling a variety of ape species and human infants. The researchers then compared the sounds of laughter that were generated. Interestingly, species more closely related to ourselves (such as bonobos and chimpanzees) had more similar acoustic data to humans when compared with our more distant relatives (gorillas and orangutans, for example). 
As the authors explain, their data matches "the well-established genetic relationships of great apes and humans." 
As social animals go, humans congregate in fairly large groups. One theory has it that laughter (along with speech) helped us to bond more efficiently. Rather than having to physically groom each individual in our tribe, we could stand within earshot and make each other laugh. Bonds could be built at a distance and with multiple players. 
Whether this theory holds water or not will be difficult to prove, but there is no question that laughing brings people closer together. Laughter helps to build relationships and, when living in a group on the savannah, bonding successfully can be the difference between life and death. 
This ability of laughter to act as social glue also helps explain why humans find it so very easy to identify a faked, forced, or overly prolonged laugh. 

    Medical News Today

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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