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posted: 4/28/2014 5:45 AM

Your health: Laughter may make your brain work better

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  • A new study shows laughter may improve short-term memory.

      A new study shows laughter may improve short-term memory.

 

Laughter may make brain work better

Ever have trouble remembering where you just left your keys? Just laugh it off. New research suggests that humor can improve short-term memory in older adults, ABC News reports.

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In a recent small study conducted at Loma Linda University in Southern California, 20 normal, healthy, older adults watched a funny video distraction-free for 20 minutes, while a control group sat calmly with no video. Afterward, they performed memory tests and had saliva samples analyzed for stress hormones.

You guessed it; those who got to laugh the 20 minutes away with the funny video scored better on short-term memory tests, researchers said. And salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol -- a memory enemy of sorts -- were significantly decreased in the humor group.

The act of laughter -- or simply enjoying some humor -- increases endorphins, sending dopamine to the brain to provide a sense of pleasure and reward, authors of the study say.

That, in turn, makes the immune system work better and changes brain wave activity toward what's called a "gamma frequency," amping up memory and recall.

The rise of 'study drugs' in college

Around this time of year, you're more likely to find college students in the library cramming for final exams than out partying. In an environment where the workload is endless and there's always more to be done, a quick fix to help buckle down and power through becomes very tempting, CNN reports.

Prescription ADHD medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are becoming increasingly popular for overworked and overscheduled college students -- who haven't been diagnosed with ADHD.

"Our biggest concern ... is the increase we have observed in this behavior over the past decade," says Sean McCabe, research associate professor at the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center.

Full-time college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically as their counterparts who were not full-time students, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health report released in 2009.

The numbers vary significantly by school, with the greatest proportion of users at private and "elite" universities.

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