No laughing matter: Adrian Owen on humor and the vegetative state

How the human brain processes jokes may help researchers determine if a person in a vegetative state can experience positive emotions – a breakthrough that could help friends, relatives and doctors better understand a patient’s mental state of mind.

Researchers from Canada and the United Kingdom, led by 2010 PopTech presenter and neuroscientist Adrian Owen, have just published a study and paper in the Journal of Neuroscience about how brain activity tied to humor can be used to understand emotions felt by vegetative state patients.

In a press release about the discovery, Owen explained:

Although our study looked at the brain’s response to jokes, our reasons for doing that were very serious. One of the main questions that families of severely brain injured patients ask us is can they still experience emotions? With the brain imaging technique we've developed here, we can answer that question in a simple and painless way.

Image: Luciana Christante

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