Dunbar, R.I.M., R. Baron, A. Frangou, E. Pearce, E.J.C. van Leeuwen, J. Stow, G. Partridge, I. MacDonald, V. Barra, M. van Vugut. 2011, “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold”. September 14 2011. The Royal Society. Accessed, April 3rd 2014.
We have all had that time, one too many to be exact, where we are in a situation and begin to laugh to the point where it hurts. That party where your drunk friend slipped and fell, or you were at a family gathering and you parents let a stale joke out in the open. Laughter, especially in those ‘social settings’, gives you that ‘feel-good’ moment. But, why do we feel this enjoyable relief that makes you feel not to hate life but enjoy the moment?
Robin Dunbar, psychologist at Oxford, has taken it upon himself to decipher these questions stimulating your minds. From his research, Dunbar says that it is more the physical act rather than the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humour. So those loud outbursts you have occasionally causes the release of endorphins from the brain. Endorphins belong to a class of endogenous opioid peptides made in the CNS that can function both as a neurotransmitter and controls pain management as β-endorphin is responsible for suppressing an organisms from physiological and psychological stress. This is the feel-good effect. Good stuff for me I think, good stuff.
Are you a social person? Do you engage in human interaction and show those pearly yellow/white teeth? Dunbar continues to say that this social laughter is “grooming at a distance” and is related to the bonds between primates.
He conducted a series of experiments with his team in different settings where they observed the effects laughter has on one’s pain resistance. Dunbar placed his participants in different settings where they would watch comedies or videos to stimulate laughter or you basic feel good/positive vibe shows. Throughout his experiments he tested his participants both before and after ‘social laughter’ where the pain applied was either from a frozen wine sleeve or a blood pressure cuff. In such experiments an individual’s pain tolerance is measured as there exists a blood-brain barrier that endorphins o not cross. In his findings he concluded that the pain tolerance of the individuals was elevated after laughter than those who weren’t laughing. He goes on to say this tolerance was due to laughter and not ‘good vibes’ shall we say (positive effects). They suggest that due to an endorphin-mediated opiate effect, constitutes social bonding.
I must say some people are crazy if you would just willingly inflict pain on an individual to see how they would react. All in the name of science I’m sure you would say, but hey I would do the same. This paper is one which opens the mind into what really happens in the body. I can personally say that I have learnt more about the way my body functions and yes I said ‘my’ because I don’t care about yours. Just kidding, it’s a love. But you know how they say laughing burns calories? Well maybe we can lose the calories and feel good while doing it, or I guess that’s why the gym is so painful. Maybe I should try laughing while doing squats. Anyway I’m gone and thanks for reading. 🙂