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Biology/inability to cry laugh


Dear Mr. Hintz,
My question concerns the reflex of crying.  I am assuming it is a reflex as is laughing.  I can do neither and haven't been able to for several years.  I feel the emotions but cannot express them in these ways.  I am elderly and assume that this may be due to aging.  My mother before me was the same way.  I am not depressed-- depression seems to be the the internet explanation for this phenomemnon  but I don't feel that it is an accurate explanation.  Depression can't take out a reflex I don't think---that's more a matter of neurotransmitters in the nucleus accumbens etc.  pleasure pain area and these two reflexes originate in the raphe nuclei in the brain stem tho they have connections to the whole thalmus , nuc. accum and cortex set- up. ( There are one or two research items on the internet on raphe nuclei  but very sketchy.)
 People who have had strokes sometimes  have pathological crying and laughing with no attendant   emotion like a car alarm going off and no burglar. Lesion in raphe nuclei? Sometimes they DO have attendant emotion to go with   the uncontrolled laughing and crying -- lesion elsewhere in the raphe nuclei? And like me sometimes the whole reflex is down - not necessarily a lesion in my case  but maybe  the pruning of aging in a system  susceptible to pruning--(  From infancy to toddler to mid childhood the crying reflex is less and less active --  no one can ever again cry like a newborn not even a two year old  -  this is pruning-)

Inability to laugh and cry is under -reported unlike pathological laugh/ crying which is so obvious. But it is real. Most likely  tickling would have no effect on me-- I would not cry from pain- the two basics- round one - of the system. Round two which is some kind of cortical connection - most  significantly I can't cry from great grief though I feel it.
The point --though--  of thinking about  all this, besides trying to fix it for me personally , would be that light could be shed on brain function in general by so doing.  Good way to understand    a function is to see it malfunctioning. And these are no minor functions.
Sorry to ramble on and to be such a know it all without qualifications  but I feel what I say is true--as in  Galileo when the Church tried to squelch his ideas, saying, "But it's true, it's true!"
How outrageous is that comparing myself to Galileo but it IS true-- crying is a reflex like a knee jerk and the circuits running it can be short circuited in a way not entirely related to the mental disorders of  depression and  anxiety.  
What do you think? Thank you for your patience in reading this long ramble.

Hi Joan
You have obviously done extensive research on this problem and there is little I can add as it appears to be a kind of medical or physiological problem. Since your mother had the same problem It seems likely that it is genetic and does not involve any lesions nor psychological. Did you cry as an infant and after birth. Inability to Laugh is strange


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Walter Hintz


Science teacher for over 50 years. MSc. in biology. I can answer questions in general biology, zoology, botany, anatomy and physiology and biochemistry.


I have a MSc in biology and have been a science teacher for over 50 years. At present I am a faculty member at a college and a science consultant at seven catholic schools.

The Ohio journal of Science
Momentum-The Journal of the Catholic Education Association

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