Scans show women's brains remain youthful as male brains wind down

06 Février, 2019, 04:09 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • The study found women's brains were younger metabolically than men's

The finding is "great news for many women", says Roberta Diaz Brinton, who wasn't connected with the study and directs the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. They found that, based on these metabolic levels, women's brains appeared about three years younger, on average, than men's brains of the same chronological age.

Dr. Michael Bloomfield, honorary consultant psychiatrist and head of the Translational Psychiatry Research Group at University College in London, told Newsweek, "It is important that we don't draw unjustified conclusions from this study in terms of differences between men and women, but that doesn't take away the need to ask these questions". Having a younger brain for longer could make the brain more vulnerable to certain things as well.

But researchers have understood little about how brain metabolism differs between men and women. 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".

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.

In reverse, they trained the algorithm on women's data and applied it to men's.

Obviously the exact age can vary from person to person, but to figure out if there are sex differences in that point, the research team conducted positron emission tomography (PET) scans on 205 people - 121 women and 84 men, from 20 to 82 years old. 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.

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Researchers then tried using a female benchmark set with women's ages and brain metabolism.

Brain aging is linked with a gradual decline in brain metabolism - the chemical processes that help it run.

All brains get smaller with age, and it was already known that men's tend to shrink at a faster rate.

"They start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life", said Goyal.

A study basing age on metabolism rather than birth date found an average 3.8 year difference between the two.

Also, the relative youthfulness of women's brains was detectable even among the youngest participants, who were in their 20s. This time, the algorithm reported that men's brains were 2.4 years older than their true ages.

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