The life scientific : 6/8 [Sophie Scott].

  • Audio

About this work


Part of a series of programmes in which Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at Surrey University, talks to leading scientists about their life and work. This part features neuroscientist, Sophie Scott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University College London. Her research centres around what happens in our brains during speech and laughter, and she uses her work as a basis for a stand-up comedy routine. Sophie mentions that within mammals laughter is more about affiliation, affection and bonding than amusement. They talk about her early career in science, particularly in psychology and understanding behaviour. She explains how she is interested in the psychology and neurobiology of normal day-to-day interactions and how looking at the healthy brain can aid research on damaged brains. Using new functional imaging techniques, she undertook a groundbreaking study discovering the areas of the human brain involved in speech perception and how they worked together. The conversation then turns to her interest in laughter and how emotional processes and good emotions, in particular, can be conveyed by the voice. They listen to a broadcast of newsreader, Charlotte Green, trying to stifle a laugh and talk about how we want to laugh with her. The mirror system is activated particularly when laughter is heard as humans and mammals are behaviourally primed to join in. One of Sophies' collaborators on imaging research is psychologist, Carolyn Mcgettigan, from Royal Holloway, University of London. She talks about how they used members of their laboratory for laughter research. Sophie also considers what made her laugh during the research and how it was important to have a group of people who knew each other well and could interact. She then talks about her stand-up comedy routine which began at the University of London's Bright Club. Comedian, Robin Ince, says that she's good at comedy because she's very enthusiastic about the subject. Sophie considers herself lucky that her type of science and research is very accessible. She mentions her funding by the Wellcome Trust and considers that scientists have a duty to communicate their work and help people understand it. It is early days for her research with imaging techniques, but she thinks there will be considerable breakthroughs about how the brain works. She particularly wants to pursue her interest in positive emotions as they reveal a lot about social interaction.


UK : BBC Radio 4, 2013.

Physical description

1 CD (28 min.)

Copyright note

BBC Radio


Broadcast on 24 September, 2013.

Creator/production credits

Produced by Pamela Rutherford for BBC Radio 4 ; presented by Jim Al-Khalili.



Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

Permanent link