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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ever have trouble remembering where you just left your keys? Just laugh it off. New research suggests that humor can improve short-term memory in older adults.

In a recent small study conducted at Loma Linda University in Southern California, 20 normal, healthy, older adults watched a funny video distraction-free for 20 minutes, while a control group sat calmly with no video. Afterwards, they performed memory tests and had saliva samples analyzed for stress hormones.

Those who got to laugh the 20 minutes away with the funny video scored better on short-term memory tests, researchers said. And salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol -- a memory enemy of sorts -- were significantly decreased in the humor group.

"Learning ability and delayed recall become more challenging as we age," said study author Dr. Gurinder S. Bains, a Ph.D. candidate in Rehabilitation Sciences. "Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors."

The less stress you have, researchers said, the better your memory. It works like this: humor reduces stress hormones, lowers your blood pressure, and increases your mood state, according to Dr. Lee Berk, a co-author of the study and associate professor of Allied Heath.

The act of laughter-- or simply enjoying some humor-- increases endorphins, sending dopamine to the brain to provide a sense of pleasure and reward, Berk said.

That, in turn, makes the immune system work better and changes brain wave activity towards what's called a "gamma frequency," amping up memory and recall.

Want to lower your stress levels?

"Begin by laughing more daily," Bains said. "It will improve your quality of life."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A sudden uptick in the SARS-like corona virus called MERS-CoV for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus is partially related to healthcare workers becoming infected with the disease.

This month the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 32 cases of the virus so far, including a cluster of 10 healthcare workers, all of whom worked with an infected patient, who died on April 10. Nearly all the cases were located in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One case was found in Malaysia.

Of the 32 cases reported this month, 19 were healthcare workers, according to the WHO.

For the first time, the disease has been found in Asia, after a Malaysian man was found to have contracted it this month. The 54-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man traveled for a pilgrimage and during his vacation spent time at a camel farm, where he had camel milk. He died on April 13 and had undisclosed underlying health conditions.

The virus is a respiratory virus in the same family as the deadly SARS virus and common cold. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, diarrhea and in severe cases kidney failure.

Since the virus was first identified in April 2012, the WHO has found a total of 243 confirmed cases of the deadly virus and 93 people have died from it.

The virus has been shown to spread between people in close contact. Currently officials do not know where the virus originated, but suspect it was likely from an animal.

No MERS-CoV infections have been reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers to the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health during the trip and in the weeks after.

CDC officials recommend that if a recent traveler to the region develops a fever or symptom of respiratory illness, including a cough or shortness of breath, they should see a doctor immediately.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- A woman who took part in a ground-breaking study in which scientists were able to use her cells to engineer lab-grown vaginas is speaking about the procedure that changed her life.

The unnamed woman was one of four subjects between the ages of 13 to 18 who took part in the study. All four suffered from a genetic condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauster (MRKH), which left them with vaginas that were incomplete.

The unnamed woman, who lives in Mexico, said in a translated interview that she was 18 when she found out about her condition and started to learn about her options.

"I thought I couldn’t believe it was true. I was informed about other procedures for this syndrome and it was unbelievable that it could be done in a lab," she said of first learning about the study.

To engineer the organs, researchers from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City biopsied cells from the women and were able to use a biodegradable scaffolds to then build the vagina in the lab. The organs were then implanted in each patient.

"For me to be able to have the surgery, I feel very fortunate because I can have a normal life,"” said the woman. "I know I'm one of the first. It is important to let other girls that have the same problem know that ... there is a treatment and you can have a normal life."

A woman with MRKH will often not develop a uterus or a full vagina, though external genitalia is unaffected by the disorder, which often means the syndrome is not diagnosed until the patient is in her late teens. Before the study, patients were limited to surgical options to recreate that vaginal canal. The disorder affects approximately one in 4,500 female births, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In the eight years after the original operation, researchers found that the subjects reported normal sexual function and that the engineered organs remained structurally and functionally normal.

"Truly I feel fortunate because I have a normal life, completely normal," said the woman who took part in the study.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Junaisy Vargas, 6, has a lot of wishes in life -- No. 4 seems the most impossible.

“I want to be a mermaid. That’s my wish,” she said.

Junaisy of Las Vegas has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone marrow cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents.

Most of her hair is gone because of chemotherapy, but for a special photo shoot she put on a wig and entered into a fantasy universe of her own creation.

It was all made possible by Shawn Van Daele, a photographer who turns dreams into reality through The Drawing Hope Project. He visited the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and photographed several kids.

Click here for more amazing photographs from Van Daele’s project.

Junaisy drew a picture for Van Daele and he turned Vargas into a real mermaid.

His mission is to bring hope and inspiration to everyone who needs it, especially children living with health conditions. He has brought dozens of these fantasies to life. Parents who hear of him reach out through social media. There are lots of superheroes and flyers.

“I just wanted to kind of get the idea out there that anything’s possible -- despite what life throws at you -- and it’s just really kind of rippled and it’s changing a lot of lives,” said Van Daele.

He works with kids all over his native Canada and the U.S. The kids draw him a picture, imagining where they want to be, and he imagines the rest of it with them.

Sadie Slykhuis, 4, has Cone Rod Dysfunction, a disease that requires her to be in darkness most of the time.

Sadie, from Fenelon Falls, Ontario, hoped to bask in the brightest sunlight, so Van Daele took her drawing of a butterfly under a bright sun and gave her wings, letting her fly among the sunflowers.

The project started years ago when there was illness in Van Daele’s family.

“I did it to cheer my dad up while he was sick and I started to realize, I could do this for other families,” Van Daele said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(DREXEL HILL, Pa.) -- An expecting couple got an unexpected surprise when their newborn weighed a whopping four pounds more than expected.

Waldo James Mysterious Dwyer was born by C-section on Monday weighing 13 pounds, 8 ounces, according to ABC affiliate WPVI.

"We knew he was big but not that big," Danielle Dwyer told WPVI, explaining that doctors guessed Waldo would weigh about 9 pounds, 10 ounces. "I'm thankful he was healthy and well."

The median birth weight for boys is just less than 8 pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But baby Waldo was two weeks past due, WPVI reported.

"He had a little extra time in there to cook, to grow," said Dwyer.

"There were so many fat rolls you couldn't tell where his armpits were," said Waldo's dad, Brian Dwyer, who also explained the origin of Waldo's unusual middle name. "He was almost 14 pounds, under a blood red lunar eclipse. I don't know what any of that means but it seems like the first few sentences of a tall tale."

"If there is one child who could own that name Waldo James Mysterious, I think that it's him."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio





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