Women's Brains May Have a Unique Edge Over Men's

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But she cautions that even though women's brain metabolism is higher overall, some women's brains experience a dramatic metabolic decline around menopause, leaving them vulnerable to Alzheimer's. It was this algorithm that revealed that women's brains were an average of 3.8 years younger than men's. It also points out that brain metabolism slows down with age.

Women's brains are four years younger than the minds of men at the same age, according to a controversial new study.

The study exclusively focused on brain metabolism, or the brain's ability to use glucose-aka sugar-to function.

One change involves the way the brain uses sugar and oxygen to fuel its efforts, Goyal said. In children, a metabolic process called aerobic glycolysis features heavily. The rest of the sugar is burned to power the day-to-day tasks of thinking and doing. So Goyal and colleagues, including Marcus Raichle, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine and a professor of radiology, and Andrei Vlassenko, MD, PhD, an associate professor of radiology, studied 205 people to figure out how their brains use sugar.

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". Both sexes were aged between 20 and 82 years.

These pieces of evidence are suggestive of a form of neoteny in the female brain, (assuming male brains as the baseline, which is something scientists do), but no one had looked at metabolism - how the brain runs on glucose - until now.

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

The researchers entered women's brain metabolism data into the algorithm and directed the programme to calculate each woman's brain age from its metabolism.

"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. The algorithm then yielded a result that found that men's brains were 2.4 years older.

Interestingly, the gap between men and women's brain ages was detectable even in young adults in their 20s.

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. "Rather, it seems that women's brains start off at a younger age when they reach adulthood, and they keep that throughout the remainder of their adulthood, basically buying them a few extra years". "We're being very cautious in not speculating on what this means in terms of downstream dementia and so forth".

The researchers analyzed brain scans of more than 200 adults, specifically looking at a measure of the brain's metabolism that's known to change with age.

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