Study: Laughter boosts brain function, eases stress

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Manzai duo Milk Boy

Laughter has the power to improve perceptive functions of the human brain and ease stress levels, according to a study by Kirin Holdings Co.

The study has found that laughter triggers various effects, including a boost in the blood flow inside the brain, after examining subjects who viewed a video of a manzai comedy duo that prompted some chuckles.

The company is mulling over ways to take advantage of the findings for the development of new products and services.

Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co., to which many comedians belong, and the city of Hamamatsu took part in the study.

The psychosomatic medicine department of Kindai University’s Faculty of Medicine supervised the study, which was conducted in Hamamatsu from January to April on 25 men and women, ranging from 40 to 65 years old.

In an example in the study, participants viewed videos of two manzai performances, one by the popular comedic duo of Milk Boy and the other by a brand-new act with less experience.

After viewing the Milk Boy video, the subjects exhibited improved focus in solving problems assigned to them, and their response time to questions was much quicker than it was after they had watched the other video.

The amount of blood flow in the frontal lobes, linked to brain activation, also showed an increase of about 2.7 times higher than levels exhibited after they saw the video that was less humorous.

Increased activity of the parasympathetic nerves was observed as well, indicating the subjects were more relaxed. And their saliva showed less activity of Alpha-amylase, a digestive enzyme used as an index to gauge psychological stress.

Humor and the act of laughing have long been believed to have a positive effect on the brain and the mind.

The results of the study were reported this autumn at the academic meetings of the Japanese Association of Stress Science and the Japanese Association of Health Psychology.

According to Kirin Holdings, this is the first time in Japan that a research group featuring industry, government and academia has jointly examined the theory. The company said it will work with Yoshimoto Kogyo to provide services related to laughter.