Laughter is Good Medicine: Triggers Brain Waves Similar to Those Produced with Meditation

Laughter triggers brain waves similar to those associated with meditation, according to a new study, led by Lee Berk, an associate professor in the School of Allied Health Professions, and an associate research professor of pathology and human anatomy in the School of Medicine, at Loma Linda University in California.

“What we have found in our study is that humor associated with mirthful laughter sustains high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations. Gamma is the only frequency found in every part of the brain,” Berk said in a university news release. “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.”

A total of 31 people had brain waves monitored while watching humorous, spiritual or distressing video clips. While watching the humorous videos, the participant’s brains had high levels of gamma waves – the same ones produced during meditation, researchers found. Also, during the spiritual videos, participants’ brains showed higher levels of alpha brain waves, similar to when a person is at rest.

During the distressing videos, there were flat brain wave bands, similar to when a person feels detached, nonresponsive or doesn’t want to be in a certain situation.

With laughter, “it’s as if the brain gets a workout,” Berk said, explaining this effect is important because it “allows for the subjective feeling states of being able to think more clearly and have more integrative thoughts. This is of great value to individuals who need or want to revisit, reorganize or rearrange various aspects of their lives or experiences, to make them feel whole or more focused.”