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It's on the tip of my tongue!

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It's on the tip of my tongue!

Short memory lapses can happen to everyone. Staying calm and allowing our mind to run through possibilities is the best antidote to tip-of-the-tongue memory lapses.

We’ve all experienced “brain freeze” when we’re in the middle of a sentence and then stop, completely lost for a word—or our entire train of thought. We can usually laugh these little memory lapses off. But, as a couple of US Republican leadership hopefuls can attest, there are certainly better moments to experience them.

These “tip of the tongue,” or TOT experiences, are great fodder for humorists, but anathema to a politician—or a job seeker in the middle of a panel interview! They happen more often as people age, but not just because of cognitive declines that accompany age. They can also happen because as we get older we have a larger repository of accumulated information, making the task of recalling one piece of stored data more difficult.

These TOT experiences can involve all or just part of the word we’re trying to remember. We might be able to remember the first letter of the word, the correct number of syllables, or remember words with a similar sound or meaning.

In the last case, just letting the mind run through the possibilities usually triggers the right word (though may be tough to do calmly while standing in front of a TV camera and a large, expectant audience).

It turns out that remaining calm is the key to retrieving lost words. Becoming anxious or stressed about the word hiccup only clouds the mind. It seems that the cliché, “It’ll probably come to me in the middle of the night,” is not so far from the truth.

There are, sometimes, more serious reasons for memory lapses. Learn the difference between normal forgetfulness and dementia as well as ways to keep your memory sharp.

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