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Laughter Reduces Age-Related Memory Loss

By M. Brooks

It looks like there is some scientific truth to the old saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” A new study from Loma Linda University in California finds that humor may reduce age-related memory loss caused by the “stress hormone” cortisol.

Too much stress has been linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, allergies and diabetes. Stress has also been shown to lessen learning ability and memory in the elderly due to increased cortisol production that damages neurons in the brain.

One of the best (and proven) stress relievers is laughter, so the research team led by Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains, came together to test this hypothesis: Laughter may reduce neuron damage caused by “stress hormone” cortisol, therefore improving memory in older individuals.

For the study, researchers analyzed a group of elderly individuals with diabetes and a group of healthy elderly people. Both groups were shown a 20-minute funny video before completing a memory assessment that measured memory recall, learning ability and visual recognition.

A third control group also completed the test without watching the video. Cortisol levels for all participants were measured before and after the test.

There was a significant reduction in cortisol in both groups that viewed the funny video. Researchers also found that those who viewed the video did better in all three areas of the assessment than the control group.

The diabetic group performed best overall, with the biggest improvement in both memory and cortisol levels.

According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Lee Burk,”Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decrease memory hippocampal neurons, lowers your blood, and increases blood flow and your mood state.”

He adds, “So, indeed, laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life.”

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