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Trouble with Naming Objects Starts at 50

Stressed out man looking upset.
Feeling a time crunch? Try giving more time away, researchers suggest in a July report in the journal Psychological Science. (Image credit: <a href=""> Sebalos</a>, <a href="">Shutterstock</a>)

Forgetting someone's name is common as one gets older, but a new study from Belgium suggests that even the names of common objects don't come to us as quickly after age 50.

In the study, people ages 25 to 90 were asked to name objects that were shown in pictures. The researchers tested how long it took people to respond, and whether or not they identified the images in the pictures correctly.

People in their 50s were not able to name the objects as fast as those in their 20s and 30s (the older group took about half a second longer). The good news is that when the 50-year-olds did eventually identify the objects, they identified them just as accurately as younger people. [See 8 Tips for Healthy Aging].

However, people in their 60s and 70s were both slower to name the objects and more likely to provide the wrong name.

"We don’t yet know why this happens — it may indicate changes in our language abilities only or it may be caused by physical factors that have nothing to do with language," said study researcher Clémence Verhaegen of the University of Liège in Belgium. "More studies are needed to reveal what is really going on."

The study is published today (Jan. 2) in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Pass it on: The ability to quickly and correctly name objects declines after age 50.

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Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.