Saturday, March 4,2000 (HealthSCOUT)
IS LAUGHTER THE BEST
By Robert Preidt HealthSCOUT Reporter
Saturday, March 4,2000(HealthSCOUT) Two California researchers hope to find out if there is more than magic in a childs laughter.
This is really the first type of research that really looks at children in a scientific way and looks at biologic mechanisms of action, says Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, a UCLA cancer researcher, professor of Pediatrics and Anesthesiology, and director of the Pediatric Pain Program at the Universitys Mattel Childrens Hospital. And associate director, Patients and Survivors Section, Division of cancer prevention and control, Jonsson Cancer Center.
She will head up the five year Rx Laughter study, which began in February, with Dr. Margaret Stuber, a cancer researcher, child psychiarist and professor in the Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences Department at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institutute.
What were hoping to find is that laughter can really have a health benefit for children, Stuber says.She notes there is already significant evidence that emotion affects health. We know that stress has negative effects on health for both adults and children. And we have indicates that laughter makes a difference for adults, Stuber says.
The study will be the first to focus on what makes healthy children laugh. Theyll be shown classic cartoons, comedy movies and television shows to see which ones produce loud laughs, grins or smiles. The act of laughter may have a very different affect on the body than just finding something funny, Zeltzer says.
The funniest shows will then be used to test physiological responses in healthy children by measuring their heart rate and other biologic functions as they laugh.
The final phase of the study will focus on showing young patients with cancer and AIDS the funny shows and monitoring their stress responses, including heart rate, blood pressure, palm sweats and levels of cortisol,la stress-related hormone. The researchers will look at the effect on various immune system factors.
If the laughter produces positive responses, the cartoons, TV shows asnd movies could be incorporated into the treatment for ill children to help them cope with the ordeal of treatment.
One of the things thats been very frustrating to me in my work is that theres a huge body of scientific work and literature about various ways we can help children get through illness, procedures, etc., but most of those have been very person-intensive, requiring 1-on-1 training of people in relaxation treatment and so on, Stuber says.
Because they are both well-known, published and respected scientists, the two researchers say that their colleagues arent raising any eyebrows about this study.
If we tried to do this study even five years ago, it probably would have had a lot more pooh-poohing than now, Zeltzer says.
The idea for the Rx Laughter study was the brainchild of UCLA graduate Sherry Dunay Hilber, an entertainment industry executive, who had wondered about the physical and emotional impact of laughter, and approached the researchers with her suggestion.
Part of the studys funding is a $75,000 grant from the cable TV network Comedy Central.
WHAT TO DO: Dont worry, be happy. Feeling happy and optimistic seems to be good for you in general. A new study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says optimistic people live about 19 percent longer than pessimists. The report was published in the February issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings and can be read at the Mayo Clinics Web Site.
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