In Anatomy of an Illness, UCLA professor Norman Cousins (author, medical humanitarian and bearer of over 70 honorary medical degrees) documented his remarkable recovery from the incurable connective tissue disease called ankylosing spondylitis, using laughter and massive injections of vitamin C. Before he passed away in 1990, he used to say that laughter was a metaphor for the full range of positive emotions. He dedicated the last part of his life to documenting the neuroimmune effects of positive emotions. His Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA lives on as his legacy.
Laughter for a Change offers brief video clips that demonstrate a variety of improvisational theater games. It is easy to see in these clips how improvisational art forms have team and community building value, in addition to fostering self-expression and creativity. These art forms are rooted in the principle of synchrony, involving mirroring or affirmation of what is delivered (as in the principle of “yes-and” in the theater world). Synchrony is a form of empathy, which is associated with positive or prosocial behavior.
An interesting neuroscientific study showed a link between synchrony and positive behavior.
In 2011, Kokal and colleagues showed that subjects in a magnetic resonance imaging machine who had an in-sync vs. out-of-sync rhythmic experience with an experimenter showed greater activity in the part of the brain that responds to a monetary reward (caudate) as well as greater measurable helpful behavior after the experiment was over.