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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jan;25(1):246-57. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht227. Epub 2013 Aug 22.

Individual differences in laughter perception reveal roles for mentalizing and sensorimotor systems in the evaluation of emotional authenticity.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
2
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London SE5 8AF, UK.
3
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
4
Department of Social Psychology, University of Amsterdam, 1018 XA Amsterdam, Netherlands and.
5
Department of Cognitive Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, London WC1H 0AP, UK.

Abstract

Humans express laughter differently depending on the context: polite titters of agreement are very different from explosions of mirth. Using functional MRI, we explored the neural responses during passive listening to authentic amusement laughter and controlled, voluntary laughter. We found greater activity in anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC) to the deliberate, Emitted Laughs, suggesting an obligatory attempt to determine others' mental states when laughter is perceived as less genuine. In contrast, passive perception of authentic Evoked Laughs was associated with greater activity in bilateral superior temporal gyri. An individual differences analysis found that greater accuracy on a post hoc test of authenticity judgments of laughter predicted the magnitude of passive listening responses to laughter in amPFC, as well as several regions in sensorimotor cortex (in line with simulation accounts of emotion perception). These medial prefrontal and sensorimotor sites showed enhanced positive connectivity with cortical and subcortical regions during listening to involuntary laughter, indicating a complex set of interacting systems supporting the automatic emotional evaluation of heard vocalizations.

KEYWORDS:

emotion; functional MRI; laughter; medial prefrontal cortex; sensorimotor cortex

PMID:
23968840
PMCID:
PMC4259281
DOI:
10.1093/cercor/bht227
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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