Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
We compared the effects of laughter and several respiratory movements on spinal motor excitability to unravel their respective influences. We measured H-reflexes in 13 healthy volunteers during 10 different tasks (including laughter, simulated laughter, and various respiratory movements). We compared the percentage that remained of the initial H-reflex during each task with that during a neutral task. H-reflex percentage differed between the neutral task (79.4±16.1%), true laughter (43.7±17.9%), and simulated laughter (66.6±24.3%), and between the two latter tasks. Coughing also resulted in H-reflex suppression, but not as deeply as true laughter. During the other respiratory maneuvers, the H-reflex increased compared to the neutral task. Our finding that true laughter evoked more H-reflex depression than simulated laughter suggests that mirth on its own depresses the H-reflex. This mechanism may also be involved in the pathophysiology of cataplexy, the main symptom of narcolepsy.
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