Darwin’s boys have done it again. Our evolutionary biologists continue to study what makes us us. Now a British research team from Oxford has carried the study of our endorphins a major step further. Granting that our species benefits from the release of these chemicals during sex and exercise, Professor Robin Dunbar tells BBCNews.com that belly-laughs do much the same.
However, there was nothing laughable about the way his team applied painful levels of cold and pressure to the arms of their volunteers. They were trying to quantify the different level of benefit to belly-laughers in contrast to just gigglers. Don’t laugh; well, at least until you know their results.
They had the volunteers watching funny videos. It turned out, the belly-laughers were able to sustain the cold/pressure 10% more than the gigglers. They didn’t report what videos were played, but I understand Dunbar is known among his colleagues as an avid Fox News viewer. Which could certainly account for many of his more hysterical endorphins.
The team went on to report the physical effort of uncontrollable laughter makes our brains release these chemicals, thereby relaxing and relieving our pain. A protocol that has been effectively used with cancer patients in hospices.
Taking the long view, the research team further suggested: “Being able to really laugh out loud has given humans a unique evolutionary bonding advantage over the animal kingdom where only chimps can laugh, but then only by panting.”
This layman is left to imagine a kind of human trifecta: Having sex on a treadmill while watching Bill O’Reilly on television!
But I digress. Back to Professor Dunbar. He is also renowned for another discovery. According to his anthrolpological study, there is a cognitive/affective limit to the number of friends — actual or virtual — that the average human can reasonably manage. Which sounds about right to me.
I mean, if there were more than 150 of us on that treadmill…well just imagine!
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