Women's Brains Are 3 Years 'Younger' Than Men's, Study Suggests

Maricruz Casares
Febrero 5, 2019

But analysis of the data showed that at any given age women's brains were younger, metabolically speaking, than men's - by an average of 3.8 years.

The brain's major fuel source is sugar, or glucose, but exactly how the brain uses glucose changes with age.

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 USA journal.

Still, Goyal noted that the difference between men and women's brain ages was relatively small compared with other well-known sex differences, such as height.

Dr Manu Goyal, who led the study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, said: 'We're just starting to understand how various sex-related factors might affect the trajectory of brain aging and how that might influence the vulnerability of the brain to neurodegenerative diseases. They found that the algorithm could closely predict a person's chronological age based on their brain's "metabolic 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".

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They scanned brains of 121 women and 84 men ranging in age from 20 to 82 years, to measure the flow of oxygen and glucose in their brains and determine the fraction of sugar used to aerobic glycolysis in various regions of the brain.

They then fed a machine-learning algorithm the male sample data to establish a relationship between age and brain metabolism. Next, they entered women's data into this algorithm, and told it to calculate the metabolic ages of the women. "It's not that men's brains age faster - they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life", Goyal said.

In their paper, the researchers wrote: "We find that throughout the adult lifespan the female brain has a persistently lower metabolic brain age - relative to their chronological age - compared with the male brain". 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.

More work is underway to confirm and better understand the implications of the research.

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