Laughter is a Brain Disease

Apparently, laughter is a brain disease. I kid you not. I was researching mental disorders for something I was writing, when I came across a reference to “laughing epilepsy.” Having the propensity to laugh myself, more so than the average person, I couldn’t help but want to know more. Apparently, there is a form of epilepsy whose symptoms include fits of laughing.

Also called “gelastic seizures,” these laughing fits may be caused by a rare, but benign brain tumor. Even infants can suffer from gelastic seizures, which manifest as cooing, giggling and smiling. If you have a particularly happy baby, it may be gas, or it may be seizures. God forbid that you actually produced happy offspring — apparently that is not allowed.

To remove the tumor and cure the laughing fits, one might need brain surgery such as a frontal or temporal lobectomy. Even children as young as toddler Anastasia Lagalla, who made front page news, have had the surgery.

So, if you are sad and miserable, doctors will give you a pill in the hopes of making you happy and it generally does not work, but if you are laughing, they want to cut out part of your brain? Wow.

In addition, laughing fits can be symptoms of pseudobulbar palsy, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, cerebral arteriosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors.

People with one of the laughing diseases may laugh at the onset of a seizure, laugh until they are unconscious, laugh until they pee, or laugh until they experience an orgasm. Seriously? Laughing so hard that you pee might be a symptom of a brain disease?

If you are unusually happy, are prone to fits of laughter, have a small head, blonde hair and pale blue eyes, be on the lookout for Angelman Syndrome, a chromosome disorder. Also known as “happy puppet syndrome,” symptoms also include flapping your hands and moving like a puppet.

Other diseases that involve laughing include multi-infarct dementia, usually found in the elderly. Laughing, crying, wandering around and getting lost, memory problems, and incontinence go hand in hand with this one. God forbid that an old person laugh, for fear that someone will accuse them of suffering from dementia.


If you suffer from fits of laughter, there are diagnostic tests for it. First they must rule out alcohol and drugs such as marijuana. They will also attempt to determine if you are a “normally happy person” or not, in which case your laughter might be normal and not a symptom of brain disease or mental illness.

Once they’ve narrowed it down, they’ll subject you to a variety of tests to determine whether you have abnormal beliefs, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and they will judge your appearance and thought content. So if you believe in weird things like UFOs and ghosts, are easily distracted, write things down so that you don’t forget them, and have laughing fits, surely you must have a brain disease or mental illness.

Laughter can also kill you. We’ve all heard the phrase “die laughing.” As it turns out, it is actually possible to die laughing. Greek philosopher Chrysippus died laughing after giving his donkey wine, and then watching the drunken donkey attempt to eat figs. Pietro Aretino suffocated himself by laughing too hard. King Martin of Aragon died laughing. Alex Mitchell and Ole Bentzen laughed until they had heart attacks.

There is also a deadly disease called “laughing sickness” or “laughing death” which is apparently contagious. Members of a cannibalistic tribe in Papua New Guinea transmitted the disease to one another, causing an epidemic which killed more than 1000 members of the tribe.

When someone died, the body was disposed of by eating it. The brain was often fed to the children and elderly, and the brain was one of the prime locations for the disease. The families would eat the body of the dead in order to keep the “life force” of the person within the family, but they got a lot more than they bargained for.

Eating the remains of someone who was infected, or coming into contact with their blood, was thought to be the cause of the epidemic. The last known death from this laughing sickness was in 2005. However, the disease has an incubation period of between 5 and 20 years, and up to 40 years in a “resilient” person, so there may still be infected persons out there spreading the disease.


Kuru, the official name for the disease, is believed to be restricted to the aforementioned tribe. However, samples were collected from the afflicted, and shipped to the United States for study. Research assistant Animo Kaguya, who lived in Papua New Guinea, died from the disease.

Researchers from several countries went to Papua New Guinea to study the disease, and have since gone back to their home countries. In addition, the disease was intentionally transmitted to chimpanzees in order to better study it, so we know that the disease can travel across species.

With such a long incubation period, is it possible that someone carried the disease out with them? Could laughing death be one of the seven plagues from Revelations that will kill us during the end of days?

One of the primary researchers, Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who won a Nobel Prize for his research on Kuru, brought as many as 56 children back to the United States from New Guinea and Micronesia. He was known to “mingle comfortably” with the tribes that he was studying, and he came to be considered a family member.

Is there any chance that he contracted the disease and brought it back? Is there any chance that the children he brought back with him were infected? What about the other researchers, of which there were several? With an incubation period of up to 40 years, and the last death in 2005, we can’t be sure we’re safe until the year 2045. Even then, knowing that the disease is locked away in a lab somewhere in the United States, maybe we’ll never be safe from the laughing sickness.

Symptoms of Kuru include shivering, trembling, headaches, joint pains, and laughter. Eventually you lose the ability to walk, and to sit, and even to speak. The laughing disease known as Kuru (aka Keru) is not only deadly, but incurable. Once you start showing symptoms, you die within 2 years. Imagine an incurable, contagious disease that makes you laugh and then kills you!

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For an in-depth look at giant cannibals who freely roamed Earth, the non-fiction book Ancient Aliens and the Age of Giants takes you deep into Earth’s ancient history, and some of the aliens who visited us.

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