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Laughing Can Improve Short Term Memory in Seniors, Study Claims

Update Date: Apr 21, 2014 10:40 AM EDT

As people age, cognitive abilities start to decline. With more people reaching their seniors years over the upcoming years, researchers have been studying ways of preventing and delaying mental decline and dementia. In a new study, a team from the Loma Linda University located in Southern California discovered a link between laughter and memory in older adults.

For this small study, the researchers recruited 20 seniors who were considered normal and healthy to participate in the experimental group, which involved watching a 20-minute comedic video without any distractions. The researchers also recruited another group of normal and healthy seniors to act as the control group. This group watched nothing during the same allotted time span. Both groups were given memory tests and were asked to provide saliva samples, which the researchers examined for stress hormones.

The participants from the experimental group ended up scoring better on the memory performance tests. They also had lower levels of cortisol, which is a hormone tied to stress. The researchers stated that laughter reduced stress levels and blood pressure while improving moods.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Lee Bark, associate professor from the University, explained in detail that laughter triggers the body to release more endorphins, which send dopamine to the brain. The brain ends up feeling more pleasure and reward from the video clip, which can help improve the immune system's functions and alter brain wave activity. The changes in the activity positively affect memory and recall.

"Learning ability and delayed recall become more challenging as we age," said study author Dr. Gurinder S. Bains, a Ph.D. candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences according to ABC News. "Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors."

Bains added, "Begin by laughing more daily. It will improve your quality of life."

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