Laughter, Brain Fitness in Older Adults

According to a new study, laughter may not only be the best medicine; it may also offer a way to improve memory.

Researchers examined the relationship between cortisol and memory, and investigated whether humor and laughter could reduce the damage that cortisol can cause to the brain. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is known to affect memory and learning ability in older adults.

Researchers showed a funny video to two groups of elderly adults, one comprising healthy individuals and the other consisting of people with diabetes and then asked participants to complete a test that evaluated learning, recall and sight recognition. Cortisol levels were measured before and after the video performance. Test results were compared against those of a control group that had not watched the funny video.

Data analysis showed that both groups that had watched the funny video had lower cortisol levels than the control group. The people with diabetes experienced the most change in cortisol totals, while the healthy older adults showed the most improvement in memory test scores. All funny-video viewers scored higher than control group members on every aspect of memory.

Simply, the less stress, the better your memory. Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decrease memory hippocampal neurons, lowers your blood pressure, and increases blood flow and your mood state. The act of laughter 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 and also amps up memory and recall.

Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal 

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