Study finds why women outlive men and stay mentally sharp longer

Study finds why women outlive men and stay mentally sharp longer

A recent study could help explain why, as the years go by, women tend to stay mentally sharper than men.

Manu Goyal, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, said the results could offer clues about why women tended to outperform men in cognitive tests in their seventies: "This could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger".

The researchers were looking at the flow of oxygen and glucose in their brains to determine the proportion of the glucose that was being allocated to aerobic glycolysis.

Our bodies use the pair of chemicals to sustain brain development as we grow from children to adults via a process known as aerobic glycolysis.

The researchers noted that the relative "metabolic youth" of women's brains also parallels the slightly longer life span of women, compared with men. The program did pretty well, but it made some mistakes, so the research team set about accounting for those errors.

"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. They found that, when trained on men's data, the algorithm yielded brain-metabolic ages for the women that were 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological age.

Brain aging is associated with a gradual decline in brain metabolism. They found that women's brains were more youthful as young adults, and the trend continued into old age.

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Researchers then tried using a female benchmark set with women's ages and brain metabolism. While the brain tends to shrink with age, men's diminish faster than women's.

"When we looked at males versus females, we did find an effect", Goyal says.

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

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.

Scientists had already established that age-related grey matter volume decrease occurs more quickly in male brains than female brains.

And, even more interestingly, this difference was observed even in people as young as their 20s. She was not part of the study. "Estrogen, which increases vitality of the brain regions involved in memory, but which plummets after menopause in women, may be a factor, although multiple other factors are likely involved". The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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