UCL News


Press cutting: 'Woo hoo!' is good for you

15 December 2006

The maxim "laugh and the whole world laughs with you" just might have a scientific basis, according to new research.

The study, published in the 'Journal of Neuroscience', shows that positive sounds such as laughter or a celebratory "woo hoo!" trigger a response in the listener's brain. This response occurs in the area of the brain that is activated when we smile, as though preparing our facial muscles to laugh. In the study, researchers at UCL and Imperial College London played a series of sounds to volunteers while measuring their brains' responses using an fMRI scanner. …

All of the sounds triggered a response in the volunteer's brain in the premotor cortical region, which prepares the muscles in the face to respond accordingly, though the response was greater for positive sounds, suggesting that these were more contagious than negative sounds. …

"This response in the brain, automatically priming us to smile or laugh, provides a way of mirroring the behaviour of others, something which helps us interact socially," says Dr Sophie Scott [UCL Human Communication Science], one of the study's authors.

"It could play an important role in building strong bonds between individuals in a group."

Rebecca Knight, 'Financial Times'