Is Laughter truly Contagious?

One person’s laughter is soon shared by another. This is because strong emotions synchronize the brain activity of different individuals according to research by Finland’s Aalto University and Turku PET Centre research published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences

Seeing emotional expressions such as smiles and laughter in someone else often triggers a corresponding emotional response in the watcher. Could this be a basic element of social interactions?

The Finnish researchers measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants were looking at short pleasant, neutral and unpleasant movies. Researchers found strong and unpleasant emotions as they synchronized participants’ emotion processing networks in the frontal and midline regions while highly arousing movies synchronized activity in brain networks supporting vision, attention and sense of touch.

According to Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University:

“Sharing others? emotional states provides the observers a somatosensory and neural framework that facilitates understanding others? intentions and actions and allows to ?tune in? or ?sync? with them. Such automatic tuning facilitates social interaction and group processes.

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