Humor - Jokes Trigger Dopamine

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There's truth in the maxim 'laughter is a drug'. [bigsmile] A comic cartoon fired up the same brain centre as a shot of cocaine, researchers are reporting.

A team at Stanford University in California asked lab mates, spouses and friends to select the wittiest newspaper cartoons from a portfolio. They showed the winning array to 16 volunteers while peering inside their heads by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The cartoons activated the same reward circuits in the brain that are tickled by cocaine, money or a pretty face, the neuroscientists found. One brain region in particular, the nucleus accumbens, lit up seconds after a rib-tickler but remained listless after a lacklustre cartoon.

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But that wouldn't mean we

But that wouldn't mean we would need to stop laughing to regulate dopamine, I sure hope! I'm sure a million things are involved in our reward circuitry. How many of them are so intense they are followed by a prolactin jump tho?

Thanks for clarifying

We NEED balanced levels of dopamine. It's great stuff. Without it, no optimism, no desire to get out of bed in the morning, no curiosity. The trick is just to avoid the too-intense stimulation with dopamine, as it tends to drop (or our sensitivity to it tends to decline) afterward for a while. And that doesn't feel good, and makes us particularly susceptible to grabbing the next high just to self-medicate.

As far as natural stimuli go, as far as I know only "potent sexual stimuli" and "highly palatable foods" have this unfortunate potential. (That's according to a Princeton professor.) However, it may also be that extreme video games belong in that list for some of us.

Laughter, friendly interaction, and many other activities definitely register as "rewarding" (dopamine-producing) at healthy levels. That's why they help ease withdrawal.

Stop and Watch the Pretty Pictures

So, I'm walking in the food court, thinking about lunch. I think about whether I should have a large lunch or a small one and settle on chicken on a pita. It was a high energy day and I'm feeling good, so I make a rational decision.

Another day, only this time a meeting goes late, I'm very hungry and feeling a little frustrated. As I enter the food court an image of a hamburger and French fries pops into my mind followed closely by a strong desire to purchase one. This decision clearly comes from a different place.

Before joining this site I never noticed how decisions come from different sources and in different forms like that. Maybe I can generalize and say that when the thought arrives in the form of an image, the source is the dopamine reward system. When I use logic to make the decision, it is not. I will have to keep observing.

Interesting . . . .


Never thought of that

I guess it makes some sense, though. The limbic brain is primitive, whereas logic emanates from the pre-frontal cortex (new brain). I've always thought of the challenge as "when I feel stressed, my limbic system tends to override my logic." And that's how it should be, according to my husband. Otherwise, in an emergency, you'd still be weighing your alternatives as the saber-toothed tiger made a burger out of YOU!

On the other hand, in daily life, better decisions can be made with a calm brain that can see all the possibilities. That's one reason to avoid the stressful withdrawal discomfort if possible.