The Dark Side of Humor: Seizure induced by Laughing

Dear Ghazal, well, didn’t we finally agreed at least on this very subject:  that however difficult life might be and how long it can take before our efforts in research pay out, threre is always one measure to keep us from giving up. I am talking about human laughter. And it was not only Aristoteles who described human laughter as devine, but it was also identified in several medical studies as promoting health, protecting from various diseases and extending longevity.  I remember when we drove on the bike in Munich, and I pushed you forward, you initially tried to protest against this but at the end you broke out in laughter. And you mentioned that “12 laughters a day keeps the doctor away” ?  And I thought that at least for short term you were right, and it made me feel happy.

But now I red this article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Case Reports (Impact factor 0.4), entitled “Laugh-induced seizure: a case report by MR Mainali et al from the Health System Department of Medicine in Reading, Pennsylvania. The patient, a 43 caucasian men suffered from “…multiple episodes of seizures, all induced by laughter while watching comedy shows…” (hic!) The patient described the conditions himself as following: “… I started laughing, then my arms started shaking and I felt like my consciousness was being vacuumed away… “. Now I became suspicious, whether you were suffering from the same symptoms. I don’t mean that your laughter made your “…consciousness being vacuumed away…” those days on the bike in Munich, but didn’t you indeed started to shake a bit when I pushed you forward, and didn’t you lost control over the bikes handlebar for a few seconds ? So it might have ended dangerous indeed, at least at this moment on the bike.

The authors of the study tested several treatments to help the poor man. The anti-convulosant drug Carbamazepine appeared to prevent the seizures for several month, but according to the FDA this drug has several potential side effects, in particular onto the unborn child of pregnant mothers. The authors concluded in their study that the safest measure against the seizures is by preventing all laugh-inducing situations.  I have to admit, since you left for Stockholm to do your PhD, the frequency of laugh-inducing moments here went down a bit. I think to benefit from the healthy effects of laughter, I should instead expose myself intentionally to some extra laugh-inducing situations. As the authors very firmly state at the end of their paper, “… Smiles and laughter are universal human social gestures that involve a complex sequence of facial, pharyngeal and diaphragmatic muscle contractions and help to establish a friendly interaction with other people.”  Unfortunatly, they don’t make any suggestion about the Comedy that was so efficient in their patient to make him Rolling-on-the-Floor-Laughing.

Take Care, and keep smiling


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