Brain Images Reveal How We Distinguish Real and Fake Laughter | ESRC press coverage |

Our brains are very sensitive to the social and emotional significance of laughter. In a brain imaging study using functional MRI (fMRI) scans, published last year in Cerebral Cortex, it was found that participants who were passively listening to a wide range of sounds showed different neural responses to laughs that were acted, compared with laughs that reflected genuine amusement. When participants heard a laugh that was posed, it activated regions in the frontal lobe of the brain associated with “mentalising”, which is where we try to infer the other person’s emotional and mental state.