Owen says, “Although our study looked at the brain’s response to jokes, our reasons for doing that were very serious. One of the main questions that families of severely brain injured patients ask us is can they still experience emotions? With the brain imaging technique we’ve developed here, we can answer that question in a simple and painless way.”
The study and resulting paper, published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience (http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/26/9665.full), finds that the “reward” area of the brain lights up to a much greater degree when a joke is told compared to that of simply listening to regular conversation.
Recruited from the United Kingdom as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging this past year, Owen studies cognitive deficits – problems in perceiving, thinking, reasoning and remembering – in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
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