Men's brains diminish faster than women's

Henrietta Strickland
February 9, 2019

"Boys will be boys" goes the old saying, but girls might have the last laugh.

They found that the men's brains weren't aging more quickly.

While the human brain tends to shrink with age, men's brains diminish faster than women's which may explain why the fairer sex are more likely to stay mentally sharp in their later years, finds a study led by a researcher of Indian-origin.

"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", said senior author Manu Goyal, a researcher Washington University in St. Louis, in a statement. "It's possible the finding we're seeing helps to explain some of that".

The researchers took data from the scans that measured brain metabolism and used an algorithm to determine a person's "metabolic brain age", the age of your brain independent of your actual age. They are carrying out their experiment on 205 people for figuring out brains' activity in using sugar. But as we age, our brains need less fuel to function. They looked at how much sugar the different brains devoted to aerobic glycolysis, a process more common in younger folks. The programme did pretty well, but it made some mistakes, so the research team set about accounting for those errors.

"One of the things we looked at was women versus men". The algorithm yielded brain ages an average of 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological ages.

Male brain scans were fed into a machine-learning algorithm as input.

"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", added Goyal.

The relative youthfulness of female brains was detectable even when comparing men and women in their 20s, the researchers said.

"It's not that women's brains seem to age slower than men's", Goyal said. "They start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life", said Goyal. It also suggests that brain metabolism has little effect on whether someone develops a complex disease like Alzheimer's.

Confirming what you've long suspected (kidding, kidding), your brain is younger than a guy's brain. "We're being very cautious in not speculating on what this means in terms of downstream dementia and so forth".

"The typical female brain is more energetically youthful than the typical male brain throughout life". They studied whether brains with signs of beta-amyloid plaque, an Alzheimer's-promoting protein, appeared older than brains that didn't have this marker. She was not part of the 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 USA journal.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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