A new study by Loma Linda University in California says that memory loss in older people may be improved by laughing. The research, using well-known reports by many past studies that too much stress can adversely affect a person’s health, linked the stress hormone, cortisol, to brain damage. The new study says that laughter can actually reduce some of that brain damage and consequently improve a person’s memory.
Stress can been linked to a whole host of other health-related issues as well, including high blood pressure, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, greater susceptibility to obesity, worsening of allergies, and making the brain more vulnerable to mental illness. Research has also indicated that stress can make remembering things more difficult and memory loss more of an issue among the elderly. It can also hinder learning abilities in those who are older.
Researchers conducting the new study wanted to find out whether memory loss in the elderly may actually be improved by laughing, as laughter has been a proven stress reliever. They conducted research with study groups of elderly people, one group with diabetes who were not completely healthy, and one group that was generally healthy. Both groups viewed a 20-minute funny video, and simultaneously were required to complete a memory test which checked areas such as their learning abilities, visual recognition, and memory recall. After this, a third group completed the test without viewing the funny video. All participants’ cortisol levels were checked before and after the testings.
The researchers concluded that the two groups of participants who had watched the funny video showed significantly lower levels of cortisol afterward, along with improvements in visual recognition, learning abilities, and memory recall. The group that indicated the greatest levels of improvement was found in the group of elderly participants with diabetes. These findings, say researchers, are essential for older adults, whose memories are bound to decline as they get older. By knowing the secrets to reverse the memory loss process as much as is possible, they can delay these issues in their old age as much as they can.
Stress can be detrimental to a person’s health, and humor as well as the laughter that results from it can reduce cortisol, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and alter a person’s mood. Elevated cortisol levels can raise a person’s risk for weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, mental illness, and lower life expectancy, among many other health issues and risks. Having humor and laughter in life releases endorphins in the brain, similar to exercise, and also releases dopamine in the brain. This makes a person feel happy and pleased. These are all neurochemical changes in the brain, which can ultimately improve a person’s memory and state of mind. Additionally, doing pleasant activities and doing mindfulness meditation are also both proven ways to lower cortisol levels.
While this new study says that memory loss may be improved by laughing, other studies have shown that a person’s memory may also be boosted by a lot of other things. Exercising, doing puzzles, reading, and even drinking caffeine (specifically green tea), have all been studied as activities that can potentially boost a person’s memory retention.
By Laura Clark