Laughter Is Exercise for the Brain

In Give learning a boost with laughter, we learned the many benefits of laughter and how it can keep your young learners engaged, helping them to retain information while promoting their overall well-being. Now let’s take a look at what is actually happening in the brain when we laugh.

In one little laugh, which may last for only a few seconds, many changes quickly occur in our bodies. When we laugh, it causes us to take a deep breath, which engages the diaphragm. At that time, your body systems are told to slow down, while your brain is busy “producing ‘feel good’ hormones (endorphins) that signal stress hormones to cool it. Once that signal is received, blood pressure drops, heart rate slows and an overall glow of ‘happiness in the moment’ replaces anxiety/stress – the perfect ‘domino effect’.”

Laughter engages the whole brain, not just one specific area. In a study by Professor Peter Derks at the college of William & Mary, an electroencephalograph (EEG) was used to study the brain activity of subjects as they were shown a series of jokes on a computer screen. Brainwave activity was monitored in multiple areas of the brain:

  • Cerebral cortex: A negatively charged brain wave swept through the cortex, the largest section of the brain, just before laughter occurred.
  • Left side of the cortex: This area analyzed the words and structure of the joke.
  • Frontal lobe: Involved in social emotional responses, this area became very active.
  • Right hemisphere of the cortex: This area carried out the intellectual analysis required to understand the joke.
  • Sensory processing area of the occipital lobe: This area processes visual signals.
  • Motor sections of the brain: These areas evoked physical responses to the joke.

Another study by researchers from Loma Linda University in California also monitored brainwaves and found that laughter gave participants’ brains a workout, producing gamma waves similar to the ones produced during meditation. We know that more exercise means more learning, and this includes exercise for the brain!

There are many ways you can give children a good brain boost. These are all activities performed in the GrapeSEED program, but they can be applied inside and outside of the classroom or during other lessons. Allowing children some time to socialize with others while working in groups (or playing at the playground!) is bound to stir up some laughter. As is getting silly and smiling and laughing yourself. Singing songs always brings out smiles, and performing action activities with them is guaranteed to get some giggles (Jump like a kangaroo! Crawl like an alligator!).

GrapeSEED students laugh for increased brain power