Here's How Female Brains Stay 'Younger' Than Male Brains

While many females complain they got the short end of the stick, biologically, a new study proves that female brains have an advantage over male brains, KSL is reporting. Scientists have found that female brains, on average, are years younger than a male brain -- which can play a part in developing neurological diseases, like Alzheimer's. These new findings were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States on Monday, February 4.

"So what we need to understand is how brain aging contributes to diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, and why some people are more or less resilient to developing Alzheimer's and other brain diseases," summarized Dr. Manu S. Goyal, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University in St. Louis.

This new study touched on how the way our brains burn fuel can play a part in how fast or slow our brain ages. While the brain technically only makes up just 2 percent of our total body mass, it uses a quarter of our body's total glucose. A side effect of aging is a decline in your metabolism. While you may have heard how aging can effect your body's shape, it turns out that your brain can decline in metabolism too. Brain cells actually metabolize glucose, which helps create the energy needed to keep synaptic functions going in addition to ensuring various cellular activities.

Differences in brain function between sexes has been observed over the years, prompting scientists to investigate. Researchers analyzed PET scans of 205 "cognitively normal" adults. Each individual had five or six brain scans to make for a thorough reading. When the readings were combined, scientists were able to get a picture of regional glucose use, oxygen consumption, and blood flow in the brain.

"We used a 'machine learning' technique to 'guess' at how old each of our study participants was based only on their brain metabolism," Goyal explained. "We found that the technique 'guessed' quite well, but often predicted a person's age to be more or less than their actual age. We found that the machine learning technique typically guessed a slightly younger age for women than their actual age."

After further analysis, researchers came to the conclusion that female brains are metabolically younger than their actual chronological age. The researchers noted that the findings from this study reinforce previous studies that found that the female brain displays less cerebral blood flow loss after puberty, more brain glycolysis in young adulthood, and decreased loss of cerebral gene expression over time.

"We are interested in results like those presented here, because they not only help us to understand how factors like sex contribute to different trajectories of metabolic brain health in late life, but also help us to understand the potential causes and early signs of Alzheimer's Disease," said Samuel Neal Lockhart, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine