Bitsch, F., Berger, P., Fink, A., Nagels, A., Straube, B., & Falkenberg, I. (accepted). Antagonism Between Brain Regions Relevant for Cognitive Control and Emotional Memory Facilitates the Generation of Humorous Ideas. Scientific Reports IF: 3.998
The ability to generate humor gives rise to positive emotions and thus facilitate the successful resolution of adversity. Although there is consensus that inhibitory processes might be related to broaden the way of thinking, the neural underpinnings of these mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a humorous alternative uses task and a stroop task, to investigate the brain mechanisms underlying the emergence of humorous ideas in 24 subjects. Neuroimaging results indicate that greater cognitive control abilities are associated with increased activation in the amygdala, the hippocampus and the superior and medial frontal gyrus during the generation of humorous ideas. Examining the neural mechanisms more closely shows that the hypoactivation of frontal brain regions is associated with an hyperactivation in the amygdala, which is concurrently linked with an increased number of humorous ideas and enhanced amygdala responses during the task. Our data therefore suggests that a neural antagonism previously related to the emergence and regulation of negative affective responses, is linked with the generation of emotionally positive ideas and may represent an important neural pathway supporting mental health.