The Facial Expression That Fights Memory Loss

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It fights the stress hormone which damages the brain’s ability to learn and remember.

It’s a smile.

New research from researchers at Loma Linda University has found that older people with diabetes who were shown a funny video scored better on a memory test. (Bains et al., 2014).

The reason seems to be that cortisol — the ‘stress hormone’ — damages the brain’s ability to learn and remember.

It does this by affective certain neurons in the brain.

Humour and laughter, though, are well-known relievers of stress.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Lee Berk said:

“It’s simple, the less stress you have 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 — or simply enjoying some humor — 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.

There are even changes in brain wave activity towards what’s called the “gamma wave band frequency,” which also amp up memory and recall.

So, indeed, laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains added:

“Our research findings offer potential clinical and rehabilitative benefits that can be applied to wellness programs for the elderly.

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.”

→ Continue reading: Memory and Recall: 10 Amazing Facts You Should Know

Image credit: Janos

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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 4 May 2014

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Images: Creative Commons License