Can you pass me the whatchamacallit? It’s right over there next to the thingamajig.

Many of us will experience “lethologica”, or difficulty finding words, in everyday life. And it usually becomes more prominent with age.

Frequent difficulty finding the right word can signal changes in the brain consistent with the early (“preclinical”) stages of Alzheimer’s disease – before more obvious symptoms emerge. However, a recent study from the University of Toronto suggests that it’s the speed of speech, rather than the difficulty in finding words that is a more accurate indicator of brain health in older adults.

The researchers asked 125 healthy adults, aged 18 to 90, to describe a scene in detail. Recordings of these descriptions were subsequently analysed by artificial intelligence (AI) software to extract features such as speed of talking, duration of pauses between words, and the variety of words used.

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