Laughter is good medicine for the brain
nd3000/Shutterstock Laughing has a positive effect on the brain’s functioning, so it is beneficial to work toward a more optimistic mindset. “There’s a long history of research showing laughter surges feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin,” Dr. Serani says. “When you laugh, brain neurochemistry sends endorphins out to decrease pain, improve resiliency, and relax muscle tone.” When we hear something funny, our brain processes the language and decides if it’s humorous. After our emotions are triggered, the motor region of the brain leads to the physical reaction of laughter. Find out why laughing at these dark jokes could mean you’re a genius.
Changes in the brain can lead to mental illness
Evgeny Hmur/Shutterstock According to the National Institutes of Health, scientists are learning that mental illness is associated with changes in the brain’s structure, chemistry, and function—so it has a biological basis in the brain. “Stress and environment can set into motion brain changes like blood flow, neural circuitry, neurotransmitters, and other functioning” that can lead to mental illness, Dr. Serani says. A recent Stanford study found that different psychiatric disorders have the same atypical brain structure in certain areas of the brain, which could mean they all have a similar cause. Make sure you know which everyday habits increase your risk of depression.
Smells are strongly tied to memory
Kasefoto/Shutterstock Whiffs of certain smells can instantly take us back in time to a particular memory, but what is it about our nose that is so strongly connected to our brain? One study from Brown University found that women had more brain activity when they smelled fragrances associated with positive memories than with fragrances they hadn’t smelled before. Other studies show more brain activity with olfactory stimuli than its verbal reference (that means the smell of roses, for example, instead of the word roses). Although scientists don’t totally understand why this happens, it could be because the parts of the brain that process smell, memory, and emotion are located close together and are actually connected—which isn’t true of information from our other senses. Find out why sense of smell indicates your risk for memory loss.