Imaging Study Shows How Humor Activates Kids’ Brain Regions
For the first time, researchers have scanned the brains of children watching funny videos to examine which of their brain regions are active as their sense of humor develops. The new findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine show that some parts of the brain network that respond to humor in adults already exist in 6- to 12-year-olds, though the neural circuits become more sophisticated as kids grow.
The researchers hope the work will provide a base for understanding how positive emotions, such as a sense of humor, could affect a child’s well-being.
“Humor is a very important component of emotional health, maintaining relationships, developing cognitive function and perhaps even medical health,” said Allan Reiss, MD, who directs the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford. Reiss is the senior author of a study describing the new findings, published Feb. 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
As an important component of positive emotion, a strong sense of humor may help children to be more resilient, added Reiss, who is also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, of radiology and of pediatrics at Stanford and at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “In particular, we think a balanced and consistent sense of humor may help children negotiate the difficult period of pre-adolescence and adolescence,” he said.