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Laughter role studied

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BOSTON, Oct 14, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Laughter plays an interesting role in psychotherapy, say researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, letting patients communicate emotional intensity.

The study, the first on the physiologic evidence of the role of laughter during psychotherapy, said the patients' reaction was much like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.

Until this study, laughter has been regarded as best medicine, but its role in psychotherapy has been disputed since the days of Freud.

In the latest study, appearing in the October issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, the researchers also found patients' and therapists' laughing together magnified the intensity and may contribute to feelings of rapport between them.

As part of a larger on-going study of psychophysiology and empathy, the researchers videotaped therapeutic sessions and took physiological measurements of both members of 10 patient-therapist pairs.

In the 10 recorded sessions, the observers identified 145 episodes of laughter, some involving both patient and therapist. On average, patients laughed more than twice as often as therapists did and were most likely to be laughing in response to their own comments.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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