Women vs Men - Whose Brain is Younger?
Apr 04 2019 Read 808 Times
We all want to maintain a sharp, healthy brain for as long as possible. From following a healthy lifestyle to completing regular mentally stimulating activities, there are plenty of things we can do to keep our brains ticking over. But according to a new study by American researchers, women have less to worry about when it comes to their brains aging.
The study found that a woman’s brain age is around four years younger than her actual age, whereas male brains were predicted to be about 2 years older than their age. In this post, we explore what is causing this brain age difference – and what it could mean for brain health in later life?
Metabolic brain age
In babies and young children, aerobic glycolysis – a process in which the brain breaks down glucose for energy – is increased in order to grow and mature the brain quickly.
Once we reach adolescence and early adulthood, the process is scaled back as the brain requires less energy overall as we are fully grown and developed. The more we age, the less aerobic glycolysis occurs, eventually reaching a very low level by the time we reach our sixties.
This study, however, suggests that the change in aerobic glycolysis is more gradual in women’s brains, reducing at a slower rate than in male brains.
Scanning patients’ brains
The researchers used a brain scanning technique, known as positron emission tomography, which measured the flow of oxygen and glucose in the brain. 121 women and 84 men participated in the study, aged between 20 and 82. The scans were used to reveal how sugar was being converted into energy in different parts of the brain.
Once they had gathered all the necessary data, the scientists used a computer algorithm to predict a person’s age based on their brain metabolism reading from the scan. The male results were used first as a control group for the algorithm. The scan results were fed into the system in order to give the computer an idea of the link between brain metabolism and a person’s age.
Once the computer estimated male ages accurately, female results were inputted, for which the algorithm predicted the brain age to be, on average, around 3.8 years younger than their actual age.
The study was then flipped, with the women being used as the control group. After the male scan results had been inputted, the computer predicted the ages of the men to be around 2.4 years older than they were.
The researchers cannot provide reasoning for the gender difference but suggest that this may be why women’s brains tend to appear sharper for longer.
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