Women's brains appear three to four years more "youthful" than those belonging to men of exactly the same age in scans, a new study has found.
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Washington University scientists in St. Louis suggested higher levels of youthful glycolysis — the breakdown of glucose by enzymes — were helping to promote women's learning and brain development even into old age.
"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," lead scientist Manu Goyal told the Independent. "Brain metabolism might help us understand some of the differences we see between men and women as they age."
People tested in the study ranged from 20 to 82 — and the relative youth of women's brains was seen in the young ones too.
"It's not that men's brains age faster – they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life," Goyal told the news outlet.
Brain aging is associated with a gradual decline in brain metabolism.
With their new study, the scientists tried to gauge the "metabolic age" of people's brains, focusing on a process that uses glucose sugar to sustain brain development as people grow from children to adults.
As adulthood progresses, people get less of the glucose pumped through the brain, reducing the energy funneled into the process. Only a tiny amount goes in by the time people are in their 60s.
According to the Independent, women's brains are known to be more resilient to cognitive decline with older women tending to score higher in tests of reason, memory, and problem solving than men the same age.