A new study suggests that, by at least one measure, women's brains are biologically younger than men's of the same age.
Samuel Neal Lockhart, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, wrote in an email that the size and scope of this new study is one of its strengths. As a result, we can count on the fact that our brains would likely function differently.
The researchers found that the predicted metabolic age based on the algorithm closely matched the actual age of the person.
All brains get smaller with age, and it was already known that men's tend to shrink at a faster rate.
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.
"The average difference in calculated brain age between men and women is significant and reproducible, but it is only a fraction of the difference between any two individuals", Goyal said. "What we don't know is what it means", he added. In the main it confirms what would be expected - that the brain's metabolic age as indicated by how it uses glucose and oxygen is closely aligned with the chronological age of the person. The algorithm estimated the women's brains to be 3.8 years younger than their real ages (95% CI 1.0-6.6 years, P 0.010 t test), on average. Then, the researchers entered women's brain metabolism data into the algorithm and directed the program to calculate each woman's brain age from its metabolism. This time, the algorithm reported that men's brains were 2.4 years older than their true ages.
The algorithm yielded brain ages an average of 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological age, according to the study. The relative youthfulness of women's brains was detectable even among the youngest participants, who were in their 20s, the researchers said. Whereas age reduces the metabolism of all brains, girls retain the next price all through the lifespan, researchers reported Monday within the journal Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences.
"We are interested in results like those presented here, because they not only help us to understand how factors like sex contribute to different trajectories of metabolic brain health in late life, but also help us to understand the potential causes and early signs of Alzheimer's Disease", Lockhart said.
HAMILTON: Brinton says the great news is for the majority of women whose brain metabolism remains high as they age. However, it's possible that it could explain why "women don't experience as much cognitive decline [as men] in later years, . because their brains are effectively younger".
The researchers noted that the relative "metabolic youth" of women's brains also parallels the slightly longer life span of women, compared with men. "Rather, it seems that women's brains start off at a younger age when they reach adulthood, and they keep that throughout the remainder of their adulthood, basically buying them a few extra years".