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Two professors walk into a classroom ...

WE'VE ALL HEARD THAT LAUGHTER IS THE best medicine, but at Randolph-Macon College (Va.) they're trying to prove it in a course on the nature of humor.

Going by the rather unfunny name, "The Human Comedy: Cultural and Neurobiological Perspectives on Humor," the freshman course combines neuroscience and humor in an effort to study how humor and laughter positively impact health.

"It's important that we stress humor and laughter in the context of social science. I want the students to not just assume that laughter is the best medicine, and that it's great for our health, but to support that with evidence," says psychology professor Kelly Lambert, who teaches the class alongside humanities professor Tom Inge.

The class studies the effects of laughter on the brain and the body, using everything from scholarly research and Charlie Chaplin films to Calvin and Hobbes comics, and field trips to comedy clubs. They even get a chance to try out their own standup routines.

So what's the punchline to all this funny stuff? The students put their knowledge to work by opening the "Laughing Place" at Children's Hospital in Richmond, a refuge where hospitalized children can temporarily escape from the pressures of their illness.

Student teams designed every aspect of the space based on their research into what colors, decor, and objects trigger positive feelings. The teams were responsible for various tasks, such as purchasing "tickle-your-funny-bone" items for the room.

"Even if the Laughing Place simply distracts a child's attention away from their pain and illness for just a moment, the project will be worthwhile--in fact, it might be just what the doctor ordered," says Lambert.--T.G.
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Title Annotation:COURSE CATALOG
Publication:University Business
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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