The neural basis of humour processing

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013 Dec;14(12):860-8. doi: 10.1038/nrn3566. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Humour is a vital component of human socio-affective and cognitive functioning. Recent advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers to explore this human attribute in children and adults. Humour seems to engage a core network of cortical and subcortical structures, including temporo-occipito-parietal areas involved in detecting and resolving incongruity (mismatch between expected and presented stimuli); and the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system and the amygdala, key structures for reward and salience processing. Examining personality effects and sex differences in the neural correlates of humour may aid in understanding typical human behaviour and the neural mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders, which can have dramatic effects on the capacity to experience social reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Wit and Humor as Topic*