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The Express, London, England - 2/17/00

By Kevin Dowling,
THE EXPRESS, London, England



Press Article


Doctors treating sick and terminally ill children plan to find out if laughter really is the best medicine.

The study will aim to establish whether controlled doses of comic characters such as Daffy Duck and Tweety Pie can help to alleviate stress and fear, and promote faster healing. Carefully selected cartoons, televisions hows snd classic comedy films will be shown to healthy child volunteers by researchers.

The shows that make them laugh the most will then be used to test immune responses in youngsters suffering from diseases such as cancer and AIDS. “We have a pretty good idea about the impact that laughter and humour can have on a person’s mental well-being,” said Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, of the Jonsson Cancer Centre at the University of California, In Los Angeles.” “But no one has really looked, with any depth, at the possible biological links between health, having a good sense of humour and even the act of laughter itself.We’ll study the impact that both humour and laughter have on the immune system and pain transmission and control.”

A colleague, Dr. Margaret Stuber, said, “We hope to help children who are hospitalised and getting treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, where the immune system is vital and improving it could be life-saving.” The project is the brainchild of Sherry Dunay Hilber, an entertainment industry executive who has worked for the CBS and ABC television networks. The cable TV network Comedy Central is helping to finance the research – and sharing it’s best jokes with the researchers.

“I have often wondered, watching an audience laugh, how they were affected physically and emotionally by laughter,” said Ms. Hilber. “Does it relax their bodies, improve their immune systems? If so, could this help seriously ill people? I hope very much this programme will lead to new ways of helping people live happier and healthier lives.”

The medical researchers will monitor heart rate, blood pressure, palm sweats, stress-related hormones and various immune system facotrs to determine if laughter really could be the best tonic for patients.

“It has already been suggested that if you make people laugh, they don’t get as anxious and they deal better with pain and do better in the hospital”, said Dr. Stuber. “What we don’t know, and what we hope to find out, is whether laughter actually makes a physical difference in such things as speed of healing.”