Scientific article
Open access

Humor as a Reward Mechanism: Event-Related Potentials in the Healthy and Diseased Brain

Published inPloS one, vol. 9, no. 1, e85978
Publication date2014

Humor processing involves distinct processing stages including incongruity detection, emotional response, and engagement of mesolimbic reward regions. Dysfunctional reward processing and clinical symptoms in response to humor have been previously described in both hypocretin deficient narcolepsy-cataplexy (NC) and in idiopathic Parkinson disease (PD). For NC patients, humor is the strongest trigger for cataplexy, a transient loss of muscle tone, whereas dopaminedeficient PD-patients show blunted emotional responses to humor. To better understand the role of reward system and the various contributions of hypocretinergic and dopaminergic mechanisms to different stages of humor processing we examined the electrophysiological response to humorous and neutral pictures when given as reward feedback in PD, NC and healthy controls. Humor compared to neutral feedback demonstrated modulation of early ERP amplitudes likely corresponding to visual processing stages, with no group differences. At 270 ms post-feedback, conditions showed topographical and amplitudinal differences for frontal and left posterior electrodes, in that humor feedback was absent in PD patients but increased in NC patients. We suggest that this effect relates to a relatively early affective response, reminiscent of increased amygdala response reported in NC patients. Later ERP differences, corresponding to the late positive potential, revealed a lack of sustained activation in PD, likely due to altered dopamine regulation in reward structures in these patients. This research provides new insights into the temporal dynamics and underlying mechanisms of humor detection and appreciation in health and disease.

Citation (ISO format)
MENSEN, Armand et al. Humor as a Reward Mechanism: Event-Related Potentials in the Healthy and Diseased Brain. In: PloS one, 2014, vol. 9, n° 1, p. e85978. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085978
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1932-6203

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