Humor and Laughter for Health with Sherry Hilber (cont.)

I'm not sure all of what I could say to you about what's involved with laughter. We know that it involves breathing differently. We know that it's essential for people to periodically sigh when they breathe, that it's not enough to just breathe at same rate all the time. Certainly the kind of deep breaths that happen when you have a belly laugh makes adifference. It makes a difference if you're breathing by using your abdominal muscles and that is the essence of a belly laugh. What is interesting to me is that probably the less obvious aspects of laughter may be even the more important ones, that is, that it probably changes the chemistry in your brain and when it changes chemistry in brain, that changes way you perceive things around you. You're less irritable, you're happier, things don't bother you as much, you feel less anxious, less pain. That could be evaluated physiologically. I suspect it changes a lot of aspects of the chemistry in the brain and hormones in the body.

Hilber: If there are certain tapes that do bring on outward laughter for the patient -- I think that they might feel like "I'm in control, I'm taking care of myself, I'm enjoying this but as I'm laughing, I'm probably healing myself. I'm giving myself a prescription." There is that feeling of taking control and being a part of the process -- essentially a prescription of laughter they're giving to themselves.

Dr. Zeltzer: What is interesting to me, and certainly has not been answered yet scientifically, is the difference between finding something funny and not showing visible signs with the face or laughing or vocalizations, but just to one's self really enjoying something funny, and what changes take place in the brain and body, how is that different from finding something funny and smiling where you're not laughing but your facial muscles are moving. We know there are certain connections between the facial muscles and the autonomic nervous system. And then the third act of actually laughing out loud, where breathing rate, abdominal wall musculature and probably other parts of the body change as well. We really don't know how those are all linked in terms of physical effects, and whether they are linked to health, illness and the immune system. That will be an exciting thing to look at in the future.

Moderator: What do you see in the future for the Rx Laughter program?

Hilber: Rx Laughter is not only national but international is the goal. This research will help us a great deal towards knowing how the tapes can be used therapeutically. We will be doing that as a complement from here on. We can do that nationally and intend to at other hospitals. I would love to see an in-hospital entertainment viewing system of both already produced videos such as the TV and film shows that we're using now, in addition to newly produced health education videos, comedy health and other entertaining videos. That could be at various hospitals and have an interactive component.

Hilber: The website is There is a "contact us" button and if they fill in the information there as to any questions or anything they want us to know, one of us will review it and we will get back to them.

Moderator: As we near the end of our time today, would you care to offer some final thoughts?

Dr. Zeltzer: I will just say that I am certainly very excited to proceed with this project that Sherry Hilber brought to Dr. Stuber and myself. It has created a momentum of its own and we have planned a whole line of research that will be exploring many of the things we talked about today. It will be a fun project. I'm sure the children will enjoy it, and we as investigators are excited about the possible outcomes.

Dr. Stuber: I also am very excited about this project at two levels. I find some of the scientific questions intriguing and some that I think will lead to a lot of other questions that we'll find interesting to pursue for quite some time. The more immediate exciting part of this is that we're coming up with something that I think can have clinical benefits right away for children who really do need our help and working together with other people within pediatric settings can really make an immediate difference in the lives of children with chronic and serious illnesses.

Hilber: The fact that Dr. Stuber and Dr. Zeltzer have been so interested and continue to be supportive and involved puts an incredible stamp of credibility on the project and helps it to increase momentum. It's also exciting to see physicians and entertainment industry executives and performers come together in this project and which will be the Rx Laughter website in a few weeks. Using my experience as a network executive, it's very fulfilling for me that I'm using everything I've done in my career in a way that could very possibly help people physically and emotionally in ways that have not yet been discovered.

Moderator: Ms. Hilber, Dr. Stuber and Dr. Zeltzer, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Zeltzer: Thank you, goodbye.

Hilber: Thank you.

Dr. Stuber: Thank you.

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