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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

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Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

October 29, 2011, 8:30 AM
Laughter

What's the Latest Development?

A new study out of Oxford University suggests that laughter can trigger the release of endorphins, the brain chemical that can make you feel good, distract you from pain and deliver other health benefits. In the study, participants watched sitcoms or stand up comedy, either alone or with others, and were then subjected to pain threshold tests like wearing an ice-cold sleeve around their arm. Those who had laughed out loud with others for 15 minutes experienced a 10 percent increase in their pain threshold. 

What's the Big Idea?

Laughing is an energetic activity that "stirs up all of our physiological systems. . .involving strong vocalization, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and muscle contractions all over the body," says Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Laughter also serves an important social function: bringing people together as a community. Evolutionary biologists say the sound of laughter comes from the "huh-huh" sound heard during the rough-and-tumble play of primates. 

 

Laughter Really Is the Best...

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