Women’s brains 3 years younger than men’s, on average

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Women’s brains 3 years younger than men’s, on average

A new study has found why women tend to outlive men and stay mentally sharp longer.  On average, female brains are about 3 years younger than men’s.

For the study, researchers enrolled 121 women and 84 men who ranged in age from their 20s to 80s.  Each subject underwent a PET scan in order to measure brain metabolism to look at the flow of oxygen and glucose to their brains. The reason for this is that the brain uses sugar as a fuel source, just like other organs in the body. But the study wanted to find out how the brain metabolizes glucose which can reveal a lot about the brain’s metabolic age.

What the study found was that across the age spans, women’s brains appeared metabolically younger than men’s. On average, women’s brains were about 3.8 years younger than their chronological age according to a machine-learned algorithm.

Men’s brains, on the other hand, were about 2.4 years older than their real ages.

Why would men’s brains appear and be “older” than women’s brains?  As senior author Manu Goyal, assistant professor of radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis stated, “It’s not that men’s brains age faster.  They start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life.”

A theory as to why men’s brains are “older” seems to be due to hormones. The theory believes that hormones might begin shaping brain metabolism at a young age, setting females on a pattern that is more youthful throughout their lives, compared to men.

It is also known that women tend to score better than men on cognitive tests of reason, memory, and problem solving in old age. The goal of scientists is to figure out if metabolic differences in the brain may play a protective role for women. This may be why, according to researchers, women don’t experience as much cognitive decline in later years since their brains are effectively younger to begin with. 

To fully understand how metabolism affects brain functioning and the differences men and women experience, more research will need to be conducted to have a better understanding of the inner workings of the brain.