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May 03, 2014 06:47 AM EDT

Funny Videos Improves Memory and Learning in Elderly, Study

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Funny videos have been found to fight memory loss and learning abilities in elderly people, according to a Loma Linda University study.

Stress leads to several health problem as people age including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Previous studies showed that stress hormone cortisol destroys certain brain neurons like hippocampal neurons and can negatively affect memory and learning ability in the aged population.

Through the study, the researchers wanted to find out whether humor and laughter, well-known stress busters, can reduce the harm caused by cortisol.

For the study, the researchers showed a 20-minute funny video to a group of fit elderly individuals and a group of aged people suffering from diabetes. Both the groups were then asked to complete a memory assessment that calculated their learning, recall, and sight recognition. Cortisol levels for both groups were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.

The performances were compared to a third group (control) of elderly people who also undertook the memory assessment, but were not shown the video.

The researchers found that decreased cortisol amounts were observed in groups who watched the video. They scored better in the memory assessment when compared to controls. Significant cortisol concentration changes were discovered in the diabetic group, while maximum memory test scores belonged to the healthy elderly group.

"Our research findings offer potential clinical and rehabilitative benefits that can be applied to wellness programs for the elderly," Researcher Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains said in a press release. "The cognitive components-learning ability and delayed recall-become more challenging as we age and are essential to older adults for an improved quality of life: mind, body, and spirit. Although older adults have age-related memory deficits, complimentary, enjoyable, and beneficial humor therapies need to be implemented for these individuals."

Dr. Lee Berk, study co-author and long-time psychoneuroimmunology humor researcher, said that engaging in a few minutes of laughter or humor lowers the level of harmful stress hormones like cortisol and also blood pressure; boosts blood flow and mood state and leads to increased production of endorphins and dopamine in the brain. These positive neurochemical changes result in the better functioning of the immune system.

Researchers said that laughter is not only a good medicine but also an excellent memory booster.

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