Dissecting Why We Laugh


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Laughter is one of the many reflexes that humans—and some other species—have, much like sneezing, shivering, or yawning. However, unlike most reflexes, laughing seems to serve no biological purpose, making it a mystery to psychologists and neurologists alike. Lawrence Ian Reed, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor at New York University, set out to answer why we laugh at “What’s So Funny? The Science of Humor and Laughter,” a program hosted by Think & Drink Different NYC.

Reed, who studies facial expression, emotion, and cooperation, explained that laughter is literally an inability to breathe normally, but the physical reaction feels good even though the person laughing is gasping for air. Since something pleasurable is in and of itself not necessarily a function, psychologists use reverse engineering to try and figure it out, which basically means taking humor and laughter apart and looking at its components and features to determine how and why it works. Continue reading

International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting in Chicago, Oct. 17-18

Guest blog by Elaine Snell, Chief Operating Officer of INS

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Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision is the theme for this year’s Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) in Chicago, October 17-18. What do we mean by “expanded vision?” The term implies bringing in people from different cultures who have either not been part of the neuroethics discussion so far, or have not been heard.

There’s the promise of what neuroscience can deliver not only to help people with neurological and psychiatric disorders, but also to better understand the( healthy brain. With this new knowledge comes big questions on how best to capture the benefits while minimizing the risk of misuse or inappropriate use. Those questions and solutions will vary from continent to continent.

The scientific program of the Annual Meeting is bold, with greater emphasis than ever before on inclusivity, diversity, and culture. There will be a series of panel discussions on the following topics, where opinions and expertise will be shared between the speakers and audience:

Ethics and the Imprisoned Brain

Techniques for altering inmates’ brains are being developed to rid prisons of what Anthony Burgess called ‘the ultra-violence’, creating an urgency for the criminal justice system to deal with the ethics of biological approaches and other neuro-interventions for incarcerated persons. Continue reading

New Grants to Increase Public Interest in Brain Science

IBRO_Dana_BAW_2020The International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and the Dana Foundation are excited to announce the launch of their partnership on new annual grants to increase opportunities for outreach and awareness campaigns in regions challenged by a lack of resources, support, and/or public understanding about the brain. Up to $1,250 (USD) will be awarded to each selected project organized for Brain Awareness Week in countries outside of Europe and North America.

Aiming to effect change at the grassroots level, we hope that the chosen projects will generate interest within local communities through engaging activities and topics relevant to their particular concerns and contexts. While it is not a requirement that the proposed projects take place during next year’s Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22, 2020), they must run under the title of the global campaign.

Applications are now open for Brain Awareness Week projects taking place in 2020, so don’t miss this opportunity to join us and inspire the world about the brain! The deadline for both grants is August 9, 2019 (11:59 pm CET). For full details on how to apply, visit the IBRO website.

Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, partners host imaginative activities that share the wonders of the brain and the impact brain science has on our everyday lives.

Books on the Brain: Summer Reading List 2019

Summer’s arrival—time for outdoor gaiety, vacations, and unearthing the unfinished tube of sunblock from last year (it’s hiding by the one from two year’s prior, truly). It also heralds longer days … and that means more sunshine to read by! If you’re normally the type to have books on the brain, then venture forth, dear reader, and acquaint yourself with the following authors, a collection of neuroscientists and brain investigators across various disciplines, sure to entice all stripes of brain enthusiasts!

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For introspective readers and dredgers of the deep: Continue reading

Brain Awareness Week 2019 in Photos

Brain Awareness Week 2019 may have concluded in March, but since April, nearly 300 partners from around the world have submitted Partner Reports detailing results of their events and activities from the campaign. In these reports, Brain Awareness Week partners share their successes as well as what they would do differently next time. They also describe the activities they organized, details of how they publicized their events, and offer advice on planning future Brain Awareness Week events.

Many partners also submit photos of their brain awareness festivities. Below is just a sampling of some photos we received, which will be featured in our new Brain Awareness Week Photo Gallery in the coming months.


Kids love playing with mascot, Brainy the Robot, and learning brain structure/function by playing the Brainy game at an event organized by Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.

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