Subjects ranged from their 20s to 80s, and across those age spans, women's brains appeared metabolically younger than men's, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed United States journal.
The jury is still out on whether cognitive differences between men and women are created by nature or nurture - or to what extent they even exist - but we do know that average structural differences between the sexes are a real thing.
It turns out that female brains tend to age more slowly, researchers report.
"We're just starting to understand how various sex-related factors might affect the trajectory of brain aging and how that might influence the vulnerability of the brain to neurodegenerative diseases", said the paper's senior author Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology at the university.More news: Liverpool submit squad for Champions League knockout phase
It was already known that men's brains shrink faster with age than women's, but the new results suggest their brain metabolism is different too. The rest of the sugar is burned to power the day-to-day tasks of thinking and doing.
The researchers carried out their study by analyzing PET scans of 205 people, between the ages of 20 and 82, with healthy brains in order to use a sample representative of the human adult life span.
They found that, when trained on men's data, the algorithm yielded brain-metabolic ages for the women that were 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological age. For each person, the researchers determined the fraction of sugar committed to aerobic glycolysis in various regions of the brain.
Researchers then tried using a female benchmark set with women's ages and brain metabolism.More news: Vicky Kaushal thanks fans for turning ‘How’s the Josh?’ into a phenomenon
The team first trained the algorithm by feeding it men's ages and brain metabolism, and then fed in female brain metabolism data. "When we started looking at that, we were pleasantly surprised that when the machine was trying to age a woman compared to a man, it consistently aged the woman to be a little bit younger than the man", Goyal said.
Next, the team will investigate why older women tend to score better on brain tests in areas including reason, memory and problem-solving than their male counterparts of the same age. "It is stronger than many sex differences that have been reported, but it's nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height". The relative sprightliness was detectable even among the youngest subjects, who were in their twenties.
A group of scientists believe the brain metabolisms of women take longer to slow than men's, which could explain why they tend to stave off cognitive decline for longer. "We're being very cautious in not speculating on what this means in terms of downstream dementia and so forth". I think this could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we're now working on a study to confirm that'. And Goyal says the team wondered whether this difference was more pronounced in men or women.More news: Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku: 'Paul Pogba happy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer'