Agatha Christie’s cleverly plotted detective stories made her the 20th century’s best-selling fiction author—she sold billions of books throughout a career that spanned the 1920s to the 1970s. But her intricate novels may reveal more about the inner workings of the human mind than she intended: according to Dr. Ian Lancashire at the University of Toronto, the Queen of Crime left behind hidden clues to the real-life mysteries of human aging.
In today’s podcast, a look at what scientists uncover when they treat words like data. In Agatha’s case, an English professor makes a diagnosis decades after her death. And in a study involving 678 nuns—as Dr. Kelvin Lim and Dr. Serguei Pakhomov from the University of Minnesota explain—an unexpected find in a convent archive leads to a startling twist. In both examples, words serve as a window into aging brains…a window that may someday help pinpoint very early warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We also hear from Sister Alberta Sheridan, a 94-year-old Nun Study participant.
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