A good guffaw may help seniors improve their memory, according to a new study.
According to Medical News Today, a research team at Loma Linda University in California looked at two groups of elderly people – one with diabetes and another without. They showed the two groups a 20-minute funny video and then gave them memory tests “that measured their visual recognition, learning ability and memory recall.” Another group of elderly people took the tests without watching the humorous video.
The scientists also recorded the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, before and after showing the video to the seniors. Cortisol has been shown to damage neurons in the brain and has been previously linked to memory decline in the elderly. Because prior studies have shown that laughter may reduce stress, the scientists wanted to evaluate whether the video could lower cortisol levels and protect the brain from cortisol-related memory damage.
Both groups who watched the funny video experienced a drop in cortisol levels. They also had improvements in “memory recall, learning ability and sight recognition.” In particular, elderly people with diabetes had the greatest improvement in cortisol levels and in their test scores. The study’s authors suggested that by decreasing cortisol, humor can help prevent damage to neurons, lower blood pressure, improve mood and increase blood flow.
The research team’s results are still preliminary and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.