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Laughter Therapy Could Combat Memory Loss in Seniors

Study suggests that humor helps improve recall, reduces stress hormone

TUESDAY, April 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Humor and laughter may help combat memory loss in the elderly, according to a study presented at the Experimental Biology meeting, held from April 26 to 30 in San Diego.

Researchers showed a 20-minute humorous video to a group of healthy seniors and a group of seniors with diabetes. These groups were compared with a group of seniors who didn't see the video.

The researchers found that 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. The study did not prove that humor offsets memory loss, it only found an association between the two.

"It's simple, the less stress you have, the better your memory," Lee Berk, Dr.P.H., from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in San Diego, said in a statement. "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. "There are even changes in brain wave activity towards what's called the 'gamma wave band frequency,' which also amp up memory and recall."

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