Laughter may protect the brains of older individuals, study finds

It’s a common saying: “Laughter is the best medicine.” And now, science may prove it to be true.

A new small study from Loma Linda University in Southern California found a relationship between humor and memory in older individuals.  For their research, the scientists analyzed 20 generally healthy seniors as they watched a comedic video for 20 minutes. For comparison, a control group of 20 seniors didn’t watch anything for the same period of time.

The participants in each group were then given memory tests and provided saliva samples in order for the researchers to test their hormone levels.  Those who watched the funny video scored much higher on the memory tests than the control group, and the laughter group had lower levels of the hormone cortisol, which is typically associated with stress.

Study author Dr. Gurinder Bains explained that laughter causes the body to release endorphins and send dopamine to the brain – improving overall activity and function.

"Learning ability and delayed recall become more challenging as we age," Bains, a Ph.D. candidate in rehabilitation sciences at Loma Linda, told ABC News. "Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors."

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