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PLoS One. 2013 Dec 4;8(12):e81009. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081009. eCollection 2013.

Decoding humor experiences from brain activity of people viewing comedy movies.

Author information

1
Science and Technology Research Laboratories, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan.

Abstract

Humans naturally have a sense of humor. Experiencing humor not only encourages social interactions, but also produces positive physiological effects on the human body, such as lowering blood pressure. Recent neuro-imaging studies have shown evidence for distinct mental state changes at work in people experiencing humor. However, the temporal characteristics of these changes remain elusive. In this paper, we objectively measured humor-related mental states from single-trial functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data obtained while subjects viewed comedy TV programs. Measured fMRI data were labeled on the basis of the lag before or after the viewer's perception of humor (humor onset) determined by the viewer-reported humor experiences during the fMRI scans. We trained multiple binary classifiers, or decoders, to distinguish between fMRI data obtained at each lag from ones obtained during a neutral state in which subjects were not experiencing humor. As a result, in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the right temporal area, the decoders showed significant classification accuracies even at two seconds ahead of the humor onsets. Furthermore, given a time series of fMRI data obtained during movie viewing, we found that the decoders with significant performance were also able to predict the upcoming humor events on a volume-by-volume basis. Taking into account the hemodynamic delay, our results suggest that the upcoming humor events are encoded in specific brain areas up to about five seconds before the awareness of experiencing humor. Our results provide evidence that there exists a mental state lasting for a few seconds before actual humor perception, as if a viewer is expecting the future humorous events.

PMID:
24324656
PMCID:
PMC3852249
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0081009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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