Knock, Knock. How’s Your Cognitive Health?

Why did the brain go running?
It wanted to jog its memory!

August 16th is Tell a Joke Day!

Admittedly, we’re not the authority on telling jokes but as a global authority on cognitive health, we’re here to tell you that sharing a laugh is good for your brain wellness.

There are several risk factors for dementia and while age is a top risk factor and can’t be changed, you can change other factors to decrease cognitive decline, such as reducing stress and having more social interaction, which can be achieved with laughing.

Processing a Joke

According to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, the prefrontal cortex plays a vital role in the flexible thinking required to “get” a joke. This region of the frontal lobe:

  1. Processes sensory information gathered by our eyes, ears, and other senses, then combines this information in a manner that helps us form useful, behavior-guiding judgments.
  2. Oversees the processing needed for planning complex cognitive behaviors, showing personality characteristics, and moderating social behavior.
  3. Helps us make sense of a joke’s punch line by sending signals along with connections to both the supplementary motor area and the nucleus accumbens, producing a strong sense of surprise and eliciting laughter.

Why You Should Share Laughter

Laughter is good for your cognitive health because it:

  • Brings people together

    Several studies have shown that laughter, a form of non-verbal communication, increases social bonds. According to social psychologist Sara Algoe, who co-authored one such study with Laura Kurtz, “For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection.”

    Laughter can also help de-escalate negative emotions and help relationships; “couples who reported the highest levels of marital satisfaction also showed the most ‘skillful’ use of positive affect (e.g. laughter) to regulate negative emotions during a difficult conversation.”

    Algoe encourages people to find ways to laugh together whether it is between couples or among colleagues in a staff meeting, as it boosts closeness, establishes bonds, and ensures everyone is on the same page.

    And by sharing laughter with those around you, you’ll increase social interaction, improve brain function, and help prevent dementia.

  • Decreases stress

    According to Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California, laughter shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. It also triggers the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, which have calming and anti-anxiety benefits.

    Studies have also shown that laughter is a positive emotion that can be effective in reducing stressful reactions to negative emotions such as fear and anger. Additionally, it can soothe tension by stimulating circulation and helping muscles relax, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    This means that with laughing, you’ll decrease your stress levels, help manage high blood pressure, which in turn can help dementia prevention.

  • Has antidepressant effects

    Did you know that failure to treat depression is estimated to account for 4 percent of dementia occurrence?

    Depression is a serious mood disorder caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

    As a non-invasive alternative treatment for depression, laughter has a similar effect to antidepressants as it can help improve your mood and make you feel better by releasing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

  • Lowers blood sugar levels

    Research studies have found that adults with Type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are linked to dementia.

    A Japanese study found that people who attended a live comedy show after a meal had lower blood sugar levels than those who attended a monotonous lecture without humorous content.

    In its conclusion, the study, indicated when laughing, the body uses up more blood sugar and “suggests the importance of daily opportunities for laughter in patients with diabetes,” which in turn lowers your dementia risk.

  • Reduces risk of heart attack and stroke

    “When you laugh for 15 minutes, the increase in the diameter of the blood vessel is similar to what you get when you run, jog or do an aerobic-like activity,” said Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

    In one of his studies, Dr. Miller found that laughter helps blood vessels function better as it expands the tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels, known as the endothelium, to allow more blood flow.

    “The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, so, given the results of our study, it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Miller. “At the very least, laughter offsets the impact of mental stress, which is harmful to the endothelium.”

    Studies have shown that risk factors for heart disease are linked to dementia. By laughing, you help your heart and your cognitive health too.

Improve and Test Your Cognitive Health

Here’s another joke to share with your friends:

Why didn’t the brain want to take a bath?
It didn’t want to be brainwashed!

If laughing isn’t really your thing, you can achieve its benefits in other ways. Dr. Berk groups laughter with other traditional healthy lifestyle activities. “Many of these same things also happen when you sleep right, eat right, and exercise,” he said. And according to studies, changing modifiable lifestyle factors have shown to prevent a third of dementia cases globally.

Whether it is celebrating “Tell a Joke Day” with a joke or two and sharing a few chuckles with friends, or going out for a run, or eating healthy, we encourage you to find activities to improve your brain health!

Curious to know if laughing (or other healthy lifestyle activities) has helped your cognitive health? Test your brain wellness regularly with Savonix.


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