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Amusement and pleasant surprises—and the laughter they can trigger—add texture to the fabric of daily life.

Those giggles and guffaws can seem like just silly throwaways. But laughter, in response to funny events, actually takes a lot of work, because it activates many areas of the brain: areas that control motor, emotional, cognitive and social processing.

As I found when writing “An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor,” researchers now appreciate laughter’s power to enhance physical and mental well-being.

Laughter’s physical power

People begin laughing in infancy, when it helps develop muscles and

A testing staff member completes a lateral flow test swab, mandatory before opening to the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. where mass coronavirus testing begins following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end an England-wide lockdown as scheduled on Dec. 2 and will announce a return to regional restrictions as statistics show that coronavirus infections have stabilized.

Johnson’s office also confirmed plans to begin a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program next month, assuming regulators approve a vaccine against the . The government also

by Linda A. Johnson

In this Feb. 12, 2019 photo, Meghan Waldron walks down the street in Boston. Waldron is a student at Emerson College with progeria, one of the world’s rarest diseases. The first treatment has been approved for progeria, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Zokinvy which was shown in testing to extend patients’ lives by 2 ½ years on average. (Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via AP)

The first drug was approved Friday for a rare genetic disorder that stunts growth and causes rapid aging in children, after studies showed it

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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Barry Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health, offers context about the news that two experimental vaccines appear to confer a high level of protection from the coronavirus.

Q&A: Barry Bloom

CHAN SCHOOL: Within the space of a week, we’ve heard about not one, but two potentially extremely effective coronavirus vaccines—one from Pfizer/BioNTech, reportedly 90 percent effective, and now one from Moderna, nearly 95 percent effective. How encouraged should we be about these preliminary results?

BLOOM: I think we have to be very grateful that

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It’s been a busy week or so for news about COVID vaccines. First we heard preliminary clinical trial results from the Pfizer vaccine, then the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. This week, we heard about the Moderna vaccine. All these results were shared with the media, ahead of being peer reviewed and published in a journal.

As we expect

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Christmas is a time of celebration, relaxation and gift giving.

But choosing gifts can also make it a time of stress and anxiety. The wrong gift can actually do more harm than good.

Here is some advice, based on decades of research, on how to side-step such pitfalls.

Why do we give gifts?

Research into the psychology of gift-giving suggests there are two goals to consider when giving someone a gift.

The first is to make the recipient happy. That mostly depends on whether the gift is something they want.

The second is to strengthen