Context: With ageing, the detrimental effects of stress can impair the ability to learn and sustain memory. Humor and the associated mirthful laughter can reduce stress by decreasing the hormone cortisol. Chronic release of cortisol can damage hippocampal neurons leading to impairment of learning and memory. Objectives: To examine the effect of watching a humor video on short term memory in older adults. Design: A randomized, controlled trial. Setting: Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA. Participants: 30 subjects: 20 normal healthy, older adults, 11 males and 9 females; 10 Type 2 Diabetic older adults, 6 males and 4 females. Intervention: Two humor groups, healthy elderly (69.9 ± 3.7 years) and diabetics (67.1 ± 3.8 years), self-selected from 1 of 2 humorous videos (20 minutes) - Red Skeleton comedy or a montage of America’s Funniest Home Videos. The control group (68.7 ± 5.5 years) did not watch a humor video and sat in quiescence. Outcome Measures: The standardized neuropsychological memory assessment tool, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test was used to assess for 1) learning ability, 2) recall ability, and 3) visual recognition ability. Salivary cortisol measurements, at 5 time points, were obtained. Results: In the health elderly, diabetic, and control groups: 1) learning ability improved by 38.5%, 33.4%, and 24.0% respectively (p=.025); 2) delayed recall improved by 43.6%, 48.1%, and 20.3% respectively (p=.064); and 3) visual recognition increased by 12.6%, 16.7%, and 8.3% respectively (p=.321). For salivary cortisol levels, there were 1) borderline and significant changes in the healthy elderly group (p=.047, .046, and .062 respectively); 2) significant changes in the diabetic group (p=.047, .025, and .035 respectively); and 3) no significant changes in the control group. Conclusion: Our research findings offer potential clinical and rehabilitative benefits that can be applied to whole person elderly wellness programs. 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.
Allied Health Studies
School of Allied Health Professions
Berk, Lee S.
Daher, Noha S.
Lohman III, Everett
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Aged; Memory Disorders - Therapy; Memory - Short Term - Physiology; Laughter Therapy
Subject - Local
Stress; Memory; Cortisol; Hippocampal Neurons; Humor; Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Bains, Gurinder Singh, "Humor's Effect on Short-Term Memory in Older Adults: An Innovative Wellness Paradigm" (2014). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. Paper 207.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives