How to be funny: Get out of your head

How to be funny: Get out of your head

The spontaneous chuckle erupting out of you requires creativity, attuned observation skills and precise timing on the behalf of the comedian. To make someone laugh, as another comedian puts it, “is a preposterous thing. I am forcing you to have an involuntary reaction to something I say.” Professional comedians (like Louis C.K.) are experts at combining these skills and generating humorous ideas for our enjoyment, and indeed – making us laugh. How is a joke set in motion within the brain networks of a professional humor maker?  

How video games unwittingly train the brain to justify killing

How video games unwittingly train the brain to justify killing

Let’s play a game. One of the quotes below belongs to a trained soldier speaking of killing the enemy, while the other to a convicted felon describing his first murder. Can you tell the difference?

(1) ‘I realised that I had just done something that separated me from the human race and it was something that could never be undone. I realised that from that point on I could never be like normal people.’

(2) ‘I was cool, calm and collected the whole time. I knew what I had to do. I knew I was going to do it, and I did.’

Connecting to our Social Selves

Connecting to our Social Selves

Dear Skin,

I would like to express my upmost gratitude for the vast amount of receptors you possess.  Among my favorites – the practical ones that allow me to find keys at the bottom of my large jet-black bag, the emergency ones that warn me the fajita plate is searing, and those truly special ones that enable me to feel my lover’s caress and help me achieve orgasm…

Such would begin a letter of appreciation to a physical sense of great importance, exquisitely described in the book Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind

(Un) Attractive: The impact of birth control on partner desirability

(Un) Attractive: The impact of birth control on partner desirability

Spring bursts forth with vibrant color, intoxicatingly sweet floral scents and sex.  That’s right, relations.  While monogamy in the rest of the animal kingdom is more of a myth, human pair-bonding gives the reward system a long-term buzz of activity and contributes to both physical and mental health. Oxytocin, the hormone produced when engaging in hugging, kissing and intercourse reduces jealousy and increases partner attractiveness. How unfortunate would it be if a product existed that could disturb this natural rhythm: altering the level of attraction and diminishing sexual functioning. There is - and almost 10 million women in the US are using it: hormonal contraception.

Pathways of Thankfulness: Gratitude in the Brain

Pathways of Thankfulness: Gratitude in the Brain

Crisp November gently beckons fire-side chats, warm knitted scarfs and fragrant kitchens redolent of home scents.  This month, a thankful attitude lifts spirits and encourages kind actions.  Despite its psychological benefit, gratitude is elusive, not inherent and difficult to define. Some psychologists contend that gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself.  What defines meaning in our brain and how does gratitude carve out its neural pathways?