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SAT Question for December 17th

Laughter Passage

        Today’s technology and resources enable people        to educate themselves on any topic imaginable, and        human health is one of particular interest to all.        From diet fads to exercise trends, sleep studies to(5)    nutrition supplements, people strive to adopt health-        ier lifestyles. And while some people may associate        diets and gym memberships with sheer enjoyment,        most of the population tends to think of personal        healthcare as a necessary but time-consuming,(10)    energy-draining, less-than-fun aspect of daily life.        Yet for centuries, or perhaps for as long as        conscious life has existed, sneaking suspicion has        suggested that fun, or more accurately,funniness, is        essential to human health. Finally, in recent years(15)    this notion, often phrased in the adage, “Laughter is        the best medicine,” has materialized into scientific        evidence.        When a person laughs, a chemical reaction in the        brain produces hormones called endorphins. Other(20)    known endorphin-producing activities include        exercise, physical pain, and certain food choices,        but laughter’s appearance on this list has drawn        increasing empirical interest. Endorphins function        as natural opiates for the human body, causing what(25)    are more commonly referred to as “good feelings.”        A boost of endorphins can thwart lethargy and pro-        mote the mental energy and positivity necessary to        accomplish challenging tasks. Furthermore, recent        data reveal that the laughter-induced endorphins are(30)    therapeutic and stress reducing.        This stress reduction alone indicates signifi-        cant implications regarding the role of laughter in        personal health. However, humor seems to address        many other medical conditions as well. One study(35)    from Loma Linda University in California found        that the act of laughing induced immediate and        significant effects on senior adults’ memory capaci-        ties. This result was in addition to declines in the        patients’ cortisol, or stress hormone, measurements.(40)    Another university study found that a mere quarter        hour of laughter burns up to 40 calories. Pain toler-        ance, one group of Oxford researchers noticed, is        also strengthened by laughter—probably due to the        release of those same endorphins already described.(45)    And a group of Maryland scientists discovered that        those who laugh more frequently seem to have        stronger protection against heart disease, the illness        that takes more lives annually than any other in        America. Studies have shown that stress releases(50)    hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict,        but laughter, on the other hand, releases chemicals        that cause blood vessels to dilate, or expand. This        dilation can have the same positive effects on blood        flow as aerobic exercise or drugs that help lower(55)    cholesterol.        Already from these reputable studies, empirical        data indicates that laughter’s health benefits include        heart disease prevention, good physical exertion,        memory retention, anxiety remedy, and pain(60)    resilience—not to mention laughter’s more self-        evident effects on social and psychological wellness.        Many believe that these findings are only the begin-        ning; these studies pave the way for more research        with even stronger evidence regarding the powerful(65)    healing and preventative properties of laughter. As        is true for most fields of science, far more can be        learned.        As for how laughter is achieved, these studies        used various methods to provoke or measure laugh-(70)    ter or humor. Some used comedy films or television        clips; others chose humor-gauging questionnaires        and social—or group—laughter scenarios. Such        variance suggests that the means by which people        incorporate laughter into their daily routine matters(75)    less than the fact that they do incorporate it.        However, it should be said that humor shared in an        uplifting community probably offers greater benefits        than that found on a screen.        It is believed that young people begin to laugh(80)    less and less as they transition to adulthood.        Time-pressed millennials might, in the interest of        wellness, choose isolated exercise instead of social-        or fun-oriented leisure activities. However, this        growing pool of evidence exposes the reality that(85)    amusement, too, can powerfully nourish the health        of both mind and body. Humor is no less relevant to        well-being than a kale smoothie or track workout.        But, then, some combination of the three might be        most enjoyable (and, of course, beneficial) of all.
Adapted from I.M. Dunbar, et al., “Social Laughter Is Correlated with an Elevated Pain Threshold.” © 2011 by The Royal Society of Biological Sciences.

The author would probably characterize the study findings mentioned in the passage as

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