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The neural basis of humour processing

Abstract

Humour is a vital component of human socio-affective and cognitive functioning. Recent advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers to explore this human attribute in children and adults. Humour seems to engage a core network of cortical and subcortical structures, including temporo-occipito-parietal areas involved in detecting and resolving incongruity (mismatch between expected and presented stimuli); and the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system and the amygdala, key structures for reward and salience processing. Examining personality effects and sex differences in the neural correlates of humour may aid in understanding typical human behaviour and the neural mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders, which can have dramatic effects on the capacity to experience social reward.

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Figure 1: Meta-analysis of activations during humour processing.
Figure 2: Meta-analysis of activations involving parametric modulation of humour.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. K. Mazaika for his help during literature review and M. Saggar for his contribution to the humour meta-analysis. This work was partly financed by an Advanced Postdoc. Mobility fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (number 136480) to P.V. and a grant from the Stanford and Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health to A.L.R

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Vrticka, P., Black, J. & Reiss, A. The neural basis of humour processing. Nat Rev Neurosci 14, 860–868 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3566

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