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

Women's brains are four years younger than men's on average

Also, the relative youthfulness of women's brains was detectable even among the youngest participants, who were in their 20s.

Brain aging is associated with a gradual decline in brain metabolism. To figure out how brains use sugar differently between men and women, the team analysed 121 women and 84 men, ranging in age from 20 to 82 years.

That is based on their use of glucose, and how it is burned for energy, which can affect brain performance. "We found that the technique "guessed" quite well, but often predicted a person's age to be more or less than their actual 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". They used the women's data as a baseline, and estimated the men's ages based exclusively on their metabolism data. The difference also was present in people who had brain amyloid.

Still, Goyal noted that the difference between men and women's brain ages was relatively small compared with other well-known sex differences, such as height. However the rates tend to be faster among men than women, they found. But it's still not clear why.

The researchers said that more work is underway to confirm and better understand the implications of the research.

Scientists have seen a variety of sex differences in the brain, including stress response, some gene expression and disease.

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.

How? The steps are a lot like those meant to prevent diabetes, Brinton says.

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A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that women's brains appear to be about three years younger than men's of the same chronological age, metabolically speaking.

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: A person in their 60s may have the body of someone much younger.

The study was conducted by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in the USA and funded by grants from the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Charles F. and Joanne Knight, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience, and the National Institutes of Health. So they studied the brains of more than 200 adults.

The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which produce detailed images that show how the brain is working.

HAMILTON: The scientists had a computer study how metabolism changed with age. As an individual grows older, the brain's metabolism slows down.

HAMILTON: Even so, for some people, there was a big difference between their brain age and their chronological age. Female's brains appeared about four years youthful, commonly.

As the researchers say, the extent of brain decline varies considerably between individuals. Studies in rodents, meanwhile, suggested that estrogen could make the brain more adaptable to change.

ROBERTA DIAZ BRINTON: It's great news for many women. Her research shows these women have a low risk of developing Alzheimer's.

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