Time course and localization of brain activity in humor comprehension: An ERP/sLORETA study

Midori Shibata, Yuri Terasawa, Takahiro Osumi, Keita Masui, Yuichi Ito, Arisa Sato, Satoshi Umeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Although a number of studies have investigated the incongruity-detection and resolution process in humor comprehension, it is difficult to functionally and anatomically dissociate these processes. We used event-related potentials (ERP) and standardized low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography analysis (sLORETA) to examine the time course and localization of brain activity during incongruity detection and resolution. We used the same materials as in our previous fMRI study. Eighteen participants read funny and unfunny scenarios and judged whether the target sentence was funny or not. Results indicated that ERPs elicited by a funny punch line showed a P2 component followed by a P600 component over the centro-parietal electrode sites. Our sLORETA analysis of the P2 ERPs revealed a stronger activation for the funny vs. unfunny condition in the superior frontal gyrus (SFG) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). For the P600 ERPs, the funny punch line elicited greater activation in the temporal-parietal regions. These results indicate that incongruity-detection processes activate the SFG and mPFC in the P2 time window, while incongruity-resolution processes generate activation at the temporal-parietal regions in the P600 time window. These results provide the evidence that verbal humor comprehension is processed in steps which start with the incongruity detection in the early P2 time window and followed by a P600 component reflecting incongruity resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-222
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 15


  • ERP
  • Humor
  • P2
  • P600

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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