How Laughter Improves Memory

Phyllis Diller and Bob Hope on an episode of 'The Phyllis Diller Happening,' 1967.
Phyllis Diller and Bob Hope on an episode of 'The Phyllis Diller Happening,' 1967.NBC / Getty Images

Stressed, frazzled, and can't remember where you put your keys? You may need to laugh more. That's the conclusion, at least, of new research out of Loma Linda University in California, where scientists found laughter helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol to improve memory and learning.

To get these results, researchers showed one group of adults in their 60s and 70s a 20-minute comedy; the other group saw a humorless TV spot. Afterward, the scientists discovered that those who watched the comedy had significantly lower levels of cortisol and, in turn, improved delayed recall by as much as 43 percent.


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"Excess cortisol can damage the hippocampus – the part of the brain that consolidates short term memory – and can eventually impair learning and memory," says study author Dr. Gurinder S. Bains, noting he and his colleagues believe the research would have implications for younger people, too, although no research has been conducted on other age groups yet. "Humor and laughter can be integrated into a whole-person wellness plan that can translate into improvements in your quality of life: mind, body, and spirit."

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