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Laughter is The Best Medicine

A study presented on Sunday at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, Calif., shows that laughter may be just what doctor should order to treat older adults and memory loss.

Researchers from the Loma Linda University demonstrated that humor can reduce brain damage caused by the infamous stress hormone — cortisol.

For the study, a 20-minute video was shown to two groups of senior citizens. The seniors in one group were healthy, those in the other group had diabetes. These groups were compared to a third group of older adults who did not watch the video.

The seniors who watched the funny video showed significant decreases in cortisol levels and greater improvements on memory tests, compared to the group who didn’t see the video.

“Our research findings offer potential clinical and rehabilitative benefits that can be applied to wellness programs for the elderly,” says lead author Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains to RTT News.

The seniors with diabetes showed the largest decrease in cortisol levels, while the healthy group had the greatest improvement on memory tests.

Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone that is released by the adrenal gland during stressful conditions. When the stress doesn’t last, the hormones will dissipate from the brain. The hormone triggers the “flight or fight” response and is only good during emergency situations. However, in times of high prolonged stress (such war or abuse, etc.) the cumulative long-term effect can seriously damage the brain.

According to the Franklin Institute, chronic over-secretion of stress hormones adversely affects brain function, especially memory. The area called the hippocampus, which is essential to memory, is starved of its energy source (glucose) during times of stress.

“It’s simple, the less stress you have, the better your memory,” says the study author Dr. Lee Berk, in a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology news release. “Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decreases memory, 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.”

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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