Home > PLoS ONE, psychology and sociology, science > Different Types of Laughter Modulate Connectivity within Distinct Parts of the Laughter Perception Network

Different Types of Laughter Modulate Connectivity within Distinct Parts of the Laughter Perception Network

May 9, 2013

Different Types of Laughter Modulate Connectivity within Distinct Parts of the Laughter Perception Network
Source: PLoS ONE

Laughter is an ancient signal of social communication among humans and non-human primates. Laughter types with complex social functions (e.g., taunt and joy) presumably evolved from the unequivocal and reflex-like social bonding signal of tickling laughter already present in non-human primates. Here, we investigated the modulations of cerebral connectivity associated with different laughter types as well as the effects of attention shifts between implicit and explicit processing of social information conveyed by laughter using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Complex social laughter types and tickling laughter were found to modulate connectivity in two distinguishable but partially overlapping parts of the laughter perception network irrespective of task instructions. Connectivity changes, presumably related to the higher acoustic complexity of tickling laughter, occurred between areas in the prefrontal cortex and the auditory association cortex, potentially reflecting higher demands on acoustic analysis associated with increased information load on auditory attention, working memory, evaluation and response selection processes. In contrast, the higher degree of socio-relational information in complex social laughter types was linked to increases of connectivity between auditory association cortices, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and brain areas associated with mentalizing as well as areas in the visual associative cortex. These modulations might reflect automatic analysis of acoustic features, attention direction to informative aspects of the laughter signal and the retention of those in working memory during evaluation processes. These processes may be associated with visual imagery supporting the formation of inferences on the intentions of our social counterparts. Here, the right dorsolateral precentral cortex appears as a network node potentially linking the functions of auditory and visual associative sensory cortices with those of the mentalizing-associated anterior mediofrontal cortex during the decoding of social information in laughter.

See: Laughter perception networks in brain different for mocking, joyful or ticklish laughter (EurekAlert!)

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