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February 21, 2002
Advisory: To contact Margaret Stuber, M.D., call Kim Irwin at
310-206-2805 or email at email@example.com. On the day of the
briefing, call the AMA’s Science News Department at 312/464-5374.
YORK—The old adage "Laughter is the best medicine" may be true
when it comes to helping children cope with pain, according to Margaret
Stuber, M.D., a researcher with the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
at the University of California, Los Angeles.
seems to induce a relaxation response in the autonomic nervous system
[the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions of
the body]. We think it could be used to help children who are undergoing
painful procedures or who suffer from pain-expectation anxiety,"
says Dr. Stuber, professor of psychiatry and biobehavior sciences at the University of California,
the future, watching humorous videos could become a standard component of
some medical procedures," says Dr. Stuber, who released the results
today of a new study on laughter’s pain diminishing effects, at an
American Medical Association media briefing on pain management.
program, Rx Laughter, is a unique collaboration between the entertainment
industry, pediatrics and psychiatry. "As a clinician, I am
interested in preventing stress and anticipatory anxiety from simple
procedures such as shots to complex procedures such as bone marrow aspirates.
Rx Laughter’s goal is to ease ill children through some of these medical
procedures and minimize the traumatic effects that the children
experience. In some instances laughter may even reduce the amount of
anesthesia necessary," describes Dr. Stuber. "Laughter could
also be of benefit for children with chronic pain, reducing need for
medications, and improving functional status."
Laughter team, comprised of Dr. Stuber, Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer (Professor of
Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Anesthesiology, and Director of the UCLA
Pediatric Pain Program at the Mattel UCLA Children’s Hospital), and
Sherry Dunay Hilber (Creator, Founder and President of Rx Laughter and
veteran primetime network comedy executive), has been working on an
application of this work by setting up a system for children in medical
isolation to communicate with each other while watching humorous videos.
potential benefit is not only from having the children laughing, but in
being able to laugh together" says Dr. Stuber. "Laughter is at
least as contagious as the infections we are trying to protect the
adds: "Throughout my career, I’ve been studying trauma responses in
children with illnesses requiring many painful procedures. Interestingly,
some children are less easily traumatized than others. We are looking
into the factors involved in resiliency so we can reduce the traumatic
impact of treatment."
Stuber expects Rx Laughter, which includes numerous classic and
contemporary videos, will be helpful to children who suffer from serious
conditions such as cancer, cerebral palsy, congenital orthopedic
problems, orthopedic injuries or burns. She says that reducing pain not
only helps in the short term, but also helps in the psychological
adjustment for months and years afterward.
Laughter is looking at laughter in several different ways:
the children are
how much they
physiological and psychological responses to that laughter
are evaluating both the behaviors and the thoughts. Does it matter how
funny they think it is or does it matter more how much they laugh? They
are related but they are not the same," says Dr. Stuber.
"Similarly, how much they judge something hurts may be different
than how long they can tolerate the pain."
the briefing, Dr. Stuber will discuss the specific relationships between
humor, laughter, pain perception and pain tolerance observed in the
initial study group. She will also discuss data now being analyzed on the
effect of laughter on cortisol levels. Elevation of cortisol is an
indication of stress response; consequently, most people in pain have an
immediate cortisol rise.
are determining when in the procedure Rx Laughter needs to be applied.
For instance, did the protective effects of watching comedy before a
procedure carry through? It appears that watching the video during the
procedure is the most effective," says Dr. Stuber.
Stuber recommends that parents learn something from their child’s innate
coping skills. "Try to laugh with your child. Use laughter to get
out of a confrontation or a grim moment. It will make both of you feel
better. Laughter may indeed be the best medicine," she concludes.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Stuber
has received an unrestricted gift from Comedy Central, which has supported
the pilot phase. For more information see: www.rxlaughter.org.
Rx Laughter™ is a registered trademark of Sherry Dunay Hilber. 2002 All
For more information, contact the
Science News Department at 312/464-5374
updated: Feb 22, 2002
Content provided by: AMA Science News
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