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A Little Novelty and Humor Goes a Long Way

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In order for our brains to learn, encode, and stamp experiences into lasting memories, we must engage in a delicate balance or dance between chemical and neurological activity.  One sensitive coupling is the relationship between dopamine and norepinephrine in the prefrontal cortex.  When these two neurotransmitters are at their perfect levels with respect to each other we tend to be alert, pay attention, find excitement without threat, and create neural activity that provides a rich learning environment in our brains.  According to David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, we approach this sweet spot of dopamine when the “orbital frontal cortex detects novelty something unexpected or new. . . the chemical rush from novelty goes fro interest to an intense desire in a flash.  Humor is all about creating unexpected connections.  Watching funny film clips or telling jokes increases dopamine levels.” (66)  What if just when you were hitting your rut today you took a moment to remember a joke or funny situation?  What if you told yourself a joke right before you had to problem-solve a situation, study, begin a new class, write a paper or proposal, or engage in an unfamiliar activity?  What more is possible when you laugh a little first?

Your Brain at Work

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