A Stroke Can Affect Your Sense of Humor

Sense of humor is more sophisticated and requires a lot more brain power than most of us realize. Normal aging is not associated with a decline in people's sense of humor- in fact- many elderly people have quite a sharp sense of humor and know how to really pack a joke with punch. However, sometimes strokes are associated with a loss of a stroke survivor’s sense of humor.

It turns out that not all strokes affect a person's funny bone, and medical researchers are starting to uncover which areas of brain injury impact a person's sense of humor.

 

Which part of the brain controls your sense of humor?

Interestingly, jokes are often about double meanings and puns, which, at first, seems to be related to language. About 90% of the worldwide population is right handed and most right-handed people have their area for language function located in the left parietal and left temporal lobes of the brain. But humor is actually predominantly controlled by the right frontal lobe of your brain, opposite the language side. This means that a sense of humor is a skill that involves different brain skills beyond just understanding funny meanings of words and puns. 

How does stroke affect humor?

A study at the University of Toronto on Canada compared healthy elderly volunteers with patients who had an injury to the frontal lobe. It turned out that the normal elderly volunteers scored better on measures of comprehension of humor than the people who had an injury to the frontal lobe of the brain.

Stroke can change personality, and one of the subtle ways a stroke changes personality is by decreasing a stroke survivor's sense of humor. 

What is your sense of humor?

Your sense of humor includes both your ability to produce witty jokes or amusing physical gestures as well as your ability to catch on to and understand jokes and subtle 'funny' humor when other people make jokes.

A strong sense of humor has been associated with high intelligence because it requires the ability to quickly see parallels and subtle ironies. The tendency to express your sense of humor by making other people laugh is associated with a high level of self-confidence. It takes self-assurance to say a joke out loud or to make a silly gesture because everyone who makes a joke takes the risk of being rejected by others who might not necessarily agree that the joke is funny. 

Having a sense of humor helps people appreciate other people's jokes and helps bond people together in social situations. Even when individuals who do not spend a lot of time together hear the same joke on a television show, it helps build connections among people when they share the same pop culture, even if the subject of the joke is not particularly significant. So a sense of humor is a social and emotional advantage that can, unfortunately, be disrupted by some kinds of stroke. 

Living with a stroke that affects sense of humor

Family and friends can become disappointed to see such a sudden personality change in a loved one after a stroke.

If you are coping with your own sense of loss when your loved one has lost her sense of humor, it is important to gently explain to your loved one that you understand why she has changed and to avoid excessively high expectations when it comes to recovery. In general, personality changes after a stroke are not always absolute and you might see some glimmer of progress, or possibly even significant improvement over time. Maintaining positive relationships and spirituality are key components of stroke recovery, especially when it comes to a stroke survivor's mood and personality.

Sources:

The neural basis of humour processing, Vrticka P, Black JM, Reiss AL, Nature Reviews:Neuroscience, December 2013

The effects of normal aging on humor appreciation, Shammi P, Stuss DT, Journal of International Neuropsychological Society, September 2003

Neural correlates of laughter and humour, Wild B, Rodden FA, Grodd W, Ruch W, Brain, October 2003

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