When looking for studies on humor and neuroscience I came a cross a very nice review. In this review two studies on the use of humor patients with chronic mental illness were discussed. These two studies were done on hospitalized psychiatric patients.
In one study clowns lead sessions twice weekly with games, psychomotor expression exercises and activities based on imaginary situations. This study was done on an acute psychiatric ward. They did 28 sessions and compared to a prior comparable period of time, disruptive behavior decreased in both absolute and relative terms. The most significantly reduced behaviors were attempted elopements, self-injury and fighting.
The other study was done on two chronic psychiatric wards with patients with chronic schizophrenia. On these two wards movies were provided 5 days per week for three months, the study period. On one ward only humorous movies were shown, the other ward viewed a mixture of film types, with only 15% being humorous.
A significant reduction in clinically rated negative symptoms, anxiety, and depression was found only in the group that viewed humorous
movies. In addition, self-reported anger was decreased and social competence was improved. No changes were found in positive symptoms, activities of daily living, treatment insight, or therapeutic alliance.
To my opinion these two studies emphasis the importance of the therapeutic milieu besides the usual psychotherapeutic and pharmacotherapeutic interventions. What do you think?
Taber KH, Redden M, & Hurley RA (2007). Functional anatomy of humor: positive affect and chronic mental illness. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 19 (4), 358-62 PMID: 18070837