Joyful laughter and meditation look similar in the brain, new research suggests.
A small study from Loma Linda University researchers shows that when people engage in humor-associated mirthful laughter, their brain wave frequencies are similar to that which are seen when a person engages in meditation.
"Humor Associated with Mirthful Laughter sustains high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations. Gamma is the only frequency found in every part of the brain," study researcher Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, of Loma Linda University, said in a statement. "What this means is that humor actually engages the entire brain -- it is a whole brain experience with the gamma wave band frequency and humor, similar to meditation, holds it there; we call this being, 'in the zone.'"
The study included 31 people who were hooked up to an EEG monitor -- which measures density of brain wave frequencies -- as they watched 10-minute video clips. The clips had either humorous, distressing or spiritual tones.
When the participants watched the humorous videos -- which provoked humor-associated mirthful laughter -- their brains produced significant gamma wave levels, similar to what you'd see when a person meditates. Meanwhile, when they watched the spiritual videos, their brains produced significant alpha brain wave bands, similar to what you'd see when a person is at rest. And when they watched the distressing videos, their brains produced flat brain wave bands, similar to what you'd see when a person is detached and doesn't want to be in a situation, researchers noted.
"We suggest HAML [humor associated mirthful laughter] may be another non-pharmacological lifestyle intervention to provide health, wellness [and] adjunctive therapeutic benefits," the researchers wrote in the study.
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.