Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Women's brains appear three years younger than men's

Women's brains appear three years younger than men's

"Brain metabolism might help us understand some of the differences we see between men and women as they age".

People tested in the study ranged from 20 to 82 - and the relative youth of women's brains was seen in the young ones too. The researchers found that if you compared a male and female brain of the same chronological age, the female brain will appear to be about three years younger, they say in a press release.

With their new study, the scientists tried to gauge the "metabolic age" of people's brains, focusing on a process that uses glucose sugar to sustain brain development as people grow from children to adults.

Scientists have just found a new distinction between the brains of the two sexes: age-related changes to the brain occur more slowly in women than in men.

"The brain really relies on glucose and oxygen to meet its metabolic needs, and it's a very large consumer of those resources", Goyal said.

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.

As adulthood progresses, less and less glucose is pumped through people's brains and by the time we're 60, only a tiny amount makes its way through our minds. 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.

The researchers also performed the analysis in reverse: They trained the algorithm on women's data and applied it to men's. Doing it this way, the algorithm reported that the men's brains were about 2.4 years older than their actual chronological ages.

It "could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger", said Goyal.

Women tend to have more youthful brains than their male counterparts - at least when it comes to metabolism.

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 studies are now needed to better understand this brain-age difference and whether it affects the risk of age-related brain disease, such a Alzheimer's.

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