Call them tip-of-the-tongue moments: those times we can’t quite call up the name or word that we know we know. These frustrating lapses are thought to be caused by a brief disruption in the brain’s ability to access a word’s sounds. We haven’t forgotten the word, and we know its meaning, but its formulation dances teasingly just beyond our grasp. Though these mental glitches are common throughout life, they become more frequent with age. Whether this is an inevitable part of growing older or somehow lifestyle-dependent is unknown. But because evidence already shows that physically fit older people have reduced risks for a variety of cognitive deficits, researchers recently looked into the relationship between aerobic fitness and word recall.
For the study, whose results appeared last month in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Birmingham tested the lungs and tongues, figuratively speaking, of 28 older men and women at the school’s human-performance lab. Volunteers were between 60 and 80 and 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 group and a second set of volunteers in
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