Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Researchers Find Sarcasm Sensor

The story via YahooNews (I'm trying to think of an appropriate sarcastic statement that is not utterly offensive to brain-damaged people to fit in here. I'll update if/when I think of one):

Many of you don't go a day without dishing out several doses of sarcasm. But some brain-damaged people can't comprehend sarcasm, and Israeli researchers think it's because a specific brain region has gone dark.

The region, according to the researchers, handles the task of detecting hidden meaning, a crucial component of sarcasm. If that part of the brain is out of commission, the irony doesn't come through, the scientists report in the May issue of Neuropsychology.

The researchers think lesions in several parts of the brain can contribute to an inability to understand sarcasm. But, they wrote, this particular area is important because it draws on your innate recognition of the emotions of other people -- empathy -- and past experiences to comprehend a speaker's intentions.

Brian Knutson, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, said the findings make sense because the brain's cortex handles a variety of sophisticated tasks, and sarcasm could be on the list.