Women's Brains Stay Sharper Longer Than Men's, New Study Finds

Women's Brains Appear'Years Younger Than Men's Study

Subjects ranged from their 20s to 80s, and across those age spans, women's brains appeared metabolically younger than men's, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed U.S. journal. And scientists at Washington University in St. Louis thought the same thing might be true of a person's brain.

Scientists might have found the reason why women tend to remain mentally sharp in old age compared to men: their brains are aging slightly later. The difference is consistent from early adulthood into the senior years, reports the Guardian.

It was already known that men's brains shrink faster with age than women's, but the new results suggest their brain metabolism is different too.

A study basing age on metabolism rather than birth date found an average 3.8 year difference between the two.

"What this tells us is that sex has an effect on how the brain ages, metabolically speaking", he said.

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While interesting, it is hard to see what practical implications this study has in terms of improving public health and preventing degenerative conditions such as dementia.

"I think this could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we're now working on a study to confirm that", he added.

Goyal and his colleagues initially set out to see if a computer program could use this brain metabolism pattern to predict someone's age. But just how it metabolizes glucose can reveal a lot about the brain's metabolic age. Doing it this way, the algorithm reported that the men's brains were about 2.4 years older than their actual chronological ages. To sort through the data, the researchers used machine learning to calculate each of the participants' brain age based on their metabolism. More brain sugar is devoted to aerobic glycolysis in children and young adults, but the fraction drops steadily with age, leveling off at very low amounts by the time people are in their 60s, Goyal and co-authors noted. Goyal said, "We don't see brain aging itself as something that needs to be "halted" He added that, "what we need to understand is how brain aging contributes to diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, and why some people are more or less resilient to developing Alzheimer's and other brain diseases". Even among the youngest participants, women's brains are younger than men's.

Pointing to existing research, the team surmised that women's brains could be free from neurocongitive decline for longer for a number of reasons. They used the women's data as a baseline, and estimated the men's ages based exclusively on their metabolism data. By having "younger" brains, women utilize glucose in a more efficient way. Still, more research is needed to better understand brain aging overall and to help prevent or delay neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, which are "a major growing problem in the United States and elsewhere", he said.

HAMILTON: Brinton says the great news is for the majority of women whose brain metabolism remains high as they age. "I think this could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is that their brains are effectively younger, and we're now working on a study to confirm that".

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