Different types of laughter make our brains react in different ways, a new study has shown. 

Scientists from the University of Tuebingen in Germany investigating the ‘laughter perception network’ found that parts of our brains sensitive to processing high-level, social information reacted most to ‘joyous’ and ‘taunting’ laughter. 

Yet, regions of our brain that are more sensitive to picking up and registering more complex sounds reacted most to ‘tickling’ laughter.

From an early age we learn how to distinguish between different kinds of laughter, according to German study.

From an early age we learn how to distinguish between different kinds of laughter, according to a German study. This includes laughing with joy, taunting laughter, and laughter caused by tickling. When we hear different types of laugh, our brain reacts differently


Researchers from Indiana State University found that with laughter can boost the immune system by up to 40 per cent.

The study tested 33 healthy women.

Half of the women watched a comedy video together while the others watched a dull video on tourism.

When the films were over, scientists took samples of the women’s immune cells, known as natural killer cells, and mixed them with cancer cells to see how effectively they attacked the disease.

They found that the women who had found the comedy funny enough to laugh out loud had significantly healthier immune systems afterwards than those who had watched the tourism film.

‘Laughing at someone and laughing with someone leads to different social consequences,’ said study leader Dr Dirk Wildgruber.


Wildgruber’s study confirms that the brain is able to recognise the difference between types of laughter. 

It can determine whether someone is laughing through mockery, humour, joy or simply as a response to being tickled.

Patterns of brain connectivity can impact cognitive function in health and disease.

Stimulus that affects these patterns could be used to test alternative treatment methods, and assess how disease reacts to certain brain changes.

Though many people laugh when they’re tickled, ‘social laughter’ in humans can be used to communicate happiness, taunts or other conscious messages to peers.

Social laughter is used in a ‘conscious and goal-directed manner’ to influence and modify other people’s attitudes and behaviours.

Tickling laughter is seen in non-human primates and is linked to play and social bonding.

In humans, reflex-like tickling laughter had evolved to encompass much more complex social functions which could be both positive or negative.

During the study, Wildgruber scanned the participants brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

The scans were used to study peoples’ neural responses as they listened to three kinds of laughter: joy, taunt and tickling.

From the scans, Wildgruber’s team found that joyous and taunting laughter produced different connectivity patterns in parts of the brain involved in sound association, thinking and visual imagery.

A laughter caused by tickling is different to the laughter caused by joy, or mocking laughter.

A laughter caused by tickling is different to the laughter caused by joy, or mocking laughter according to scientists from the University of Tuebingen in Germany. Tickling laughter is considered to be a more complex sound, so the brain reacts differently to it. Changes in brain pattern connections can affect health and disease

These different kinds of laughter then spark different connections in the human brain, depending on their context.

The researchers then found that brain regions sensitive to processing more complex social information were activated when people heard joyous or taunting laughter, but not when they heard the ‘tickling laughter’.

These dynamic changes activated and connected different regions depending on the kind of laughter participants heard. 

Professor Wildgruber said that although some previous research has examined how speech can influence these patterns, this study is among the first few to examine non-verbal vocal cues like laughter.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.