Health Care

Men's Brains Are Three Years 'Older' Than Women's at the Same Age

Men's Brains Are Three Years 'Older' Than Women's at the Same Age”

The findings, available online the week of February 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could be one clue to why women tend to stay mentally sharp longer than men.

Men's brains are almost four years "older" than those of females the same age, explaining why women stay sharper for longer in old age, according to new research. The researchers put data from the scans that showed how the brain uses oxygen and glucose into a computer model that was created to estimate the metabolic age of individuals' brains. When people are younger, they devote more glucose to a metabolic process called "aerobic glycolysis", which is thought to help with brain development and maturation, including brain-cell growth. They had started out by trying to predict a person's age from the metabolic processes of his or her brain.

Next, the team will investigate why older women tend to score better on brain tests in areas including reason, memory and problem-solving than their male counterparts of the same age. It was this algorithm that revealed that women's brains were an average of 3.8 years younger than men's. They found that women's brains were more youthful as young adults, and the trend continued into old age.

"We're just starting to understand how various sex-related factors might affect the trajectory of brain ageing and how that might influence the vulnerability of the brain to neurodegenerative diseases", said neuroscientist Manu Goyal of the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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". 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.

"Despite this relative brain youthfulness, however, women are at higher risk for developing Alzheimer's than men", Devi continued.

It turns out that female brains tend to age more slowly, researchers report.

Regardless of the trigger, increased metabolism could give female brains an edge in the case of studying and creativity in later life, Goyal says. They used the women's data as a baseline, and estimated the men's ages based exclusively on their metabolism data. So they had a computer study how metabolism changed in both men and women.

When it comes to brains, it's women who have staying power, according to the latest research. "Males, their blood flow to the brain decreases quite a bit as they go through puberty". Having a younger brain for longer could make the brain more vulnerable to certain things as well.

"What we don't know is what it means".

In the next stage of their research, the team will be trying to determine if cognitive problems occur less frequently in people with brains that seem younger.

In fact, brain metabolism might have little to do with diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia, said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

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