It’ll come to me in a minute

More on the brain and aging.  Since The New York Timesarticle by Barbara Strauch* that I referenced recently is only accessible to subscribers, I went to the Pomona College Aging and Cognition website to supplement what I read in the Times article about the work of researcher Deborah H. Burke.

Much of Burke’s research centers on the complaint many of us have that the name of someone we just encountered in the grocery store, the title of that great book we read two years ago, or the actor who won an Academy Award last year would not come to mind when we needed it. Burke calls these tip of tongue experiences “TOTs” and makes us all feel better by saying that they begin as early as age 40 and that they can be minimized.  “This research and our model of TOTs predict that daily activities that increase language production should mitigate word-finding failures like TOTs. Using language in ordinary activities like socializing or in games like Scrabble may help keep words accessible and off the tip of the tongue!”

The Aging and Cognition website goes on to say, “We also are interested in why some cognitive processes are well maintained in old age. Semantic processes (for example, vocabulary size and word knowledge) increase during adulthood and semantic processes essential for language comprehension show little difference in young and older adults… “…we found that both young and older adults rated older adults’ discourse about experiences such as a vacation as more interesting and informative and of higher quality than young adults’ discourse.”

So there you have it, two perfect interventions to keep our brains working well:  1) get out the Scrabble board and invite some friends over to socialize and play, and 2)  take a vacation and come home ready to talk about it (but not all evening and please leave the eight hours of video at home).

*Strauch also wrote The Secret Life of the Grownup Brain.

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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2 Responses to It’ll come to me in a minute

  1. Sharon says:

    Loved the summary of the research. Interesting how brain aging–or not– now seems to be of broader interest; all the baby-boomers aging perhaps.

  2. Jill Turnell says:

    I think that playing “Trivia Pursuit” is another great way to keep those words coming. However, I must admit that when we play it, we sometimes cheat and give the letters of a famous person’s name – e.g. – the author who wrote some book – so at least I don’t feel totally stupid when the name won’t come. These little nudges to the memory seem acceptable to me!!

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