A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

Did you laugh? Well if you didnt know that is called a joke. Jokes make us laugh and many of us may wonder what makes a joke funny? I have heard many lame jokes that are not funny and some that have made me laugh with tears rolling down my eyes. What are the differences between a good joke and a bad joke? Research shows that there is a specific area of our brains, which enables us to react to humour. Using a brain scanning method called Magnetic Resonance Imaging, scientists found the precise area was behind the frontal lobes of the brain, in the section of the Prefrontal cortex, which plays a large part in flexible thinking. At Laugh Lab, an experiment was held to understand this phenomena, where a group of people undertook these MRI scans, as well as answering a series of questions. As the subjects listened to jokes, their brain activity was scanned. They were then read “serious” sentences and both results were compared. Their findings were astonishing. When the “punchlines” of the jokes were heard, the scan showed much more activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, compared to when they were read the “serious” sentences. Obviously, it illustrated that when this part of the brain was activated, it enabled the participants to “get” the punch line within an element of surprise – and ultimately realize why the joke was funny.

It was clear that without the function of this section of the brain, understanding a joke would be very difficult, if not impossible. In fact, research shows that people who have suffered from brain damage to this frontal area of the brain have commonly lost their sense of humour.

So next time you hear a funny joke, you will know why it is funny.



Ashley Tung 1P



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