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Laughter Helps Improve Recall And Reduces Stress Hormones In Seniors

Update Date: Apr 28, 2014 09:36 AM EDT

Humor and laughter may help combat memory loss in seniors, according to a new study. 

Perviously, a different research had found that the stress hormone cortisol can harm memory and learning ability in seniors. This study examined if mirth reduced the damage caused by cortisol. 

As a part of the study, researchers showed a 20-minute humorous video to a group of healthy seniors and a group of seniors with diabetes. The groups were then compared with a group of seniors who didn't see the video. 

The two groups that watched the funny video showed significant decreases in cortisol levels and greater improvements on memory tests, compared to the group that didn't see the video. The diabetes group showed the largest decrease in cortisol levels, while the healthy group had the greatest improvement on memory tests, according to the press release. 

"It's simple, the less stress you have, the better your memory," one of the study's authors, Lee Berk, said in a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology news release. "Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decreases memory [brain cells], lowers your blood pressure and increases blood flow and your mood state. The act of laughter-or simply enjoying some humor-increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward."

"These positive and beneficial neurochemical changes, in turn, make the immune system function better," Berk added in the press release. "There are even changes in brain wave activity towards what's called the 'gamma wave band frequency', which also amp up memory and recall. So, indeed, laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life."

The study was presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego. 

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