"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Funny Brains 

A report from Dartmouth neuroscientists: the part of your brain that 'gets' a joke seems to be different than the part that finds it funny. Makes sense, I think, since humour must involve different regions: happiness (which is presumptively tied to the experience of funniness) is an emotion, ruled by the deep, ancient parts of the brain. But for humour to happen, you need more advanced functions like memory, language, and social conditioning, which come from the cortex.

The write-up alludes to one problem, that the comedy used in the study is of the ironical, intellectual type, in form of The Simpsons and Seinfeld. It's possible that other types of humour, like an Adam Sandler movie, would not require so much cortical input.

David points out that the authors assert that "if some people don't find The Simpsons funny, it's premature to say that they have a defective frontal lobe," and says they're wrong. I disagree: it may not be their frontal lobes at all. The brain is far too complicated for such a simple diagnosis. Something is, however, terribly wrong with them.

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