How Exercise Can Help You Recall Words

Call them tip-of-the-tongue moments: those times we can’t quite call up the name or word of which we know we know. These frustrating lapses are thought to be caused by a brief disruption within the brain’s ability to access a word’s sounds. We haven’t forgotten the word, and also also also we know its meaning, although its formulation dances teasingly just beyond our grasp. Though these mental glitches are common throughout life, they become more frequent with age. Whether This kind of is actually an inevitable part of growing older or somehow lifestyle-dependent is actually unknown. although because evidence already shows of which physically fit older people have reduced risks for a variety of cognitive deficits, researchers recently looked into the relationship between aerobic fitness and also also also word recall.

For the study, whose results appeared last month in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Birmingham tested the lungs and also also also tongues, figuratively speaking, of 28 older men and also also also women at the school’s human-performance lab. Volunteers were between 60 and also also also 80 and also also also healthy, with no clinical signs of cognitive problems. Their aerobic capacities were measured by having them ride a specialized stationary bicycle to exhaustion; fitness levels among the subjects varied greatly. This kind of group and also also also a second set of volunteers in their 20s then sat at computers as word definitions flashed on the screens, prompting them to indicate whether they knew and also also also could say the implied word. The vocabulary tended to be obscure — “decanter,” for example — because words rarely used are the hardest to summon quickly.

To no one’s surprise, the young subjects experienced far fewer tip-of-the-tongue failures than the seniors, even though they had smaller vocabularies over all, according to additional tests. Within the older group, the inability to identify and also also also say the right words was strongly linked to fitness. The more fit someone was, the less likely he or she was to go through a “what’s of which word again?” moment of mental choking.

As an observational investigation, a one-time snapshot of human capabilities, the study cannot prove of which greater fitness is actually what causes older brains to maintain better processing skills; of which can only suggest a correlation. Also, exercise habits were not considered; aerobic fitness, which depends to some degree on genetics, was the variable measured. Nor did the study look more broadly into how fitness might interact with language processing as a person ages. Nonetheless, “fitness has widespread effects on the brain,” says Katrien Segaert, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham who led the study. The areas affected include the frontal and also also also temporal cortices, which are involved in language processing.

Segaert and also also also her colleagues plan to deploy brain scans in future studies to examine just how and also also also where fitness and also also also exercise most affect our ability to call up words. although already, she says, This kind of study hints of which staying in shape could influence how well we communicate as we age. “Language is actually such a crucial skill, such a central part of cognition,” she says, and also also also “being fit may help.”