One Rule Improv’s Mary DeMichele Publishes New Brain Research Showing Improv Helps Teens Impacted by Trauma for Better Mental Health

One Rule Improv’s Mary DeMichele Publishes New Brain Research Showing Improv Helps Teens Impacted by Trauma for Better Mental Health

Lake Ozark, Missouri - 09/02/2021 — New Neurobiological Research Shows Improv Linked to Improved Brain Function in Teens impacted by Complex Developmental Trauma

Lake Ozark, MO, Sept. 1, 2021 - In one of the only empirical studies on the intersection between neuroscience and improvisation since the pioneering work of Charles Limb from 2008, Mary DeMichele and Scott Kuenneke have shown that short-form improv games increase the functional connectivity of the brain. The research suggests opportunities for improvisation to contribute to treating trauma, stress, and other mental health concerns. 

Published in the open-source, peer reviewed journal, NeuroRegulation, and already featured in Forbes, Psychology Today and in the documentary, Act Social: Using Yes, And to Heal the World from Within, starring Colin Mochrie of “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” the results of this study showed that, 

“Improv increased the functional connectivity of the brain, which means that different areas of the brain were better integrated and communicating more efficiently with each other. In other words,  improv activates the prefrontal cortex, moving one from a mental state of fear and protection to where they are better able to engage cognitively, behaviorally, physically, and emotionally (DeMichele & Kuenneke, 2021)”

A practicing improv coach, educator, consultant,and author at One Rule Improv, DeMichele has spent over 20 years combining cognitive, behavioral and neuroscience to create a fast and accessible approach for teachers, clinicians, and businesses to gain the many benefits improv offers.  This spring, DeMichele and Kuenneke, Director of NeuroTherapies at Calo Programs, co-published original research studying the impact of improv games with 32 teens impacted by Complex Developmental Trauma, which comes from prolonged exposure to traumatic events early in life.  Using qEEG caps to monitor brain waves before and after participating in 20 minutes of improv games, DeMichele and Kuenneke found that improv’s rule of “Yes, and…” is the access point to the brain.” (DeMichele & Kuenneke, 2021)

While many people are familiar with short-form improv as a comedic art, because of the many benefits and skill development it offers it is applied in many industries around the world. Often misunderstood as similar to stand-up comedy or theater, improv is instead, a separate art form built on its unique frame of “Yes, and…”. DeMichele explains, “With every interaction in every game, each offer is unconditionally accepted, ‘Yes,” Then a player adds to the other’s idea, ‘And’ essentially validating its worth. A supportive relationship is established.” 

This reciprocal practice of “Yes, and-ing” very quickly creates the safety, attunement, and flexibility needed to shift from the fear-based brain to the activation of the prefrontal cortex and a more integrated nervous system. (DeMichele & Kuenneke, 2021)

DeMichele hopes this study will inspire future research on the impact that improv has on the brain, as well as promote innovative uses of improv to help others better engage in learning, healing, and life. 

About Mary DeMichele

Mary DeMichele, creator, and founder of One Rule Improv is a coach, educator, performer and author. She has helped thousands of people in education, clinical professional and social settings take those first critical steps in the world of improv. Her research-based and trauma sensitive approach makes improv and all it offers immediately accessible to all.  She is excited to continue to share this incredibly simple, accessible process that anyone can engage in and teach, and in doing so help others and the people around them to engage and connect, leading to a far richer life as a whole. For more information visit

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Company Name: One Rule Improv
Full Name: Mary DeMichele
Phone: 615-418-6084
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