Women's brains appear 'four years younger' than men's

Desiree Burns
February 7, 2019

"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", Goyal said The study shows that older women tend to score better than men of the same age on tests of reason, memory and problem solving. And scientists at Washington University in St. Louis thought the same thing might be true of a person's brain.

Women's brains are four years younger than the minds of men at the same age, according to a controversial new study. The difference is consistent from early adulthood into the senior years, reports the Guardian.

The researchers conclude: "We find that throughout the adult life span the female brain has a persistently lower metabolic brain age - relative to their chronological age - compared with the male brain". While the brain tends to shrink with age, men's diminish faster than women's. The researchers found that with age the rates of metabolism of nutrients slow down in both men and women.

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

This study will be of interest to scientists in helping understanding of how our brains age.

Dr. Michael Bloomfield, honorary consultant psychiatrist and head of the Translational Psychiatry Research Group at University College in London, told Newsweek, "It is important that we don't draw unjustified conclusions from this study in terms of differences between men and women, but that doesn't take away the need to ask these questions".

Goyal said that while the differences between the brain age of men and women was "significant", it was "nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height".

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'What we don't know is what it means. However, she cautions that regardless that females' mind metabolism is increased general, some female's brains expertise a dramatic metabolic decline around menopause, leaving them susceptible to Alzheimer's.

As you age, the brain's use of glucose changes. The algorithm yielded brain ages an average of 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological ages.

The PET data showed how glucose and oxygen were used in different regions of the brain and the overall blood flow.

Women may have the advantage over men when it comes to brainpower.

The relative youthfulness of female brains was detectable even when comparing men and women in their 20s, the researchers said. Goyal, Raichle, Vlassenko and colleagues are now following a cohort of adults over time to see whether people with younger-looking brains are less likely to develop cognitive problems. 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. The researchers speculate that women may have more "youthful" brains and that various biological processes may give the brain resilience as it ages.

Then they reversed the process and had the computer estimate a person's age based on brain metabolism data. "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 are now working on a study to confirm that", he said.

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