Pathologic Laughter and Crying in ALS: A Search for Their Origin

Acta Neurol Scand. 1989 Aug;80(2):114-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1989.tb03851.x.


Spells of laughter and crying are well known in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Since ALS occurs mostly in older age groups, this brings up the possibility that aging changes in the brain could play a causative role in the origin of such spells. To rule out or at least reduce the complicating factor of aging, a study was made of the incidence of pathologic laughter and crying in patients whose motor neuron disease had started before the age of 45 years. The data were collected from 73 such individuals, all with confirmed ALS. All told, 36 had experienced episodes of pathologic laughter and/or crying. Of these, 20 had bouts of both laughter and crying. 9 bouts of crying alone and 7 spells of laughter alone. Nearly all with such emotional spells had developed bulbar involvement with the illness. The youngest patient with spells was 31 when his illness began and 35 when he started to have bouts of crying.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology*
  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Crying / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laughter / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / etiology*