According to the conclusions of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom, women who suffer from Alzheimer's disease experience neural degeneration faster than men suffering from the same form of dementia.
The accelerated, more pronounced mental degeneration pattern holds true even if elderly men and women are of similar age, the research group explains. During a new series of experiments, the team gave Alzheimer's patients of both genders tests covering five cognitive areas.
In all categories, male Alzheimer's patients obtained consistently higher scores than their female peers. One of the things the experts were surprised to learn was that verbal skills in female patients appeared to be significantly more impaired than in males.
This is very interesting, because women traditionally have better verbal skills than males. In the healthy population, this is a general trend, so finding out that this ability is impaired in Alzheimer's is a significant finding, PsychCentral
“Unlike mental decline associated with normal aging, something about Alzheimer’s specifically disadvantages women,” University of Hertfordshire psychology professor and study team leader, Keith Laws, PhD, explains.
He and his team conducted a meta-analysis of how the disease affects both genders, by studying 15 papers previously published on this issue. Males consistently exhibit an advantage in performing verbal and visuospatial tasks, when compared to females.
In addition, men had better episodic and semantic memory. These are, respectively, the ability to recall specific events, and the ability to store factual data without letting feelings change the nature or perception of that information.
Details of the new investigation were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, the team reports. One of the potential explanations for this difference could be that hormones play a significant role in controlling women's mental performances.
A different explanation suggests that men have what researchers refer to as a “greater cognitive reserve” than women, which contributes to protecting them against neural degeneration.
Statistically speaking, more women suffer from Alzheimer's than men. An interesting fact is that the ratio of female-to-male patients continuously increases with age.