Talking faster could be a sign of better brain health as we age


As we grow older, it’s natural to experience occasional moments of word-fumbling or forgetfulness. For many, these instances can spark concerns about cognitive decline or even dementia. However, a recent study suggests how fast we talk might offer valuable insights into our brain health as we age.

Dr Jed Meltzer, lead author of the study explains, “Our results indicate that changes in general talking speed may reflect changes in the brain. This suggests that talking speed should be tested as part of standard cognitive assessments to help clinicians detect cognitive decline faster and help older adults support their brain health as they age.”

The study involved 125 healthy volunteers spanning from 18 to 90 years old. Participants underwent a series of assessments to gauge their cognitive abilities and speech patterns. One test involved a picture-naming task where participants had to identify images while disregarding distracting words. Additionally, participants described complex pictures while being recorded, allowing researchers to analyse their speech patterns using AI-based software.

Results revealed that while word-finding speed naturally slowed with age, this decline wasn’t necessarily indicative of overall cognitive health. Surprisingly, the study found that the speed of speech, rather than pauses during word retrieval, correlated more strongly with brain health indicators like executive function.

In essence, the study suggests that the pace of our speech could offer valuable clues about our brain health. While occasional pauses to search for words are typical, a consistent slowing down of speech could potentially signal changes in cognitive health.

Looking ahead, the research team plans to conduct longitudinal studies to track participants’ cognitive health over time, further exploring the relationship between speech speed and brain health. Ultimately, these findings could pave the way for early detection tools and interventions to support brain health as individuals age.

The study’s findings have been published in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, marking a significant step forward in understanding the intricate relationship between speech patterns and cognitive well-being in older adults.

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