Gender Differences in Alzheimer’s

Alzheimers Disease may affect the brain of men and women in different ways

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Men and women are different in many ways, and their brains are a bit different, too. So researchers wanted to know how Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affected the brains of men and women.

They found that the brain changes that appear in AD showed up earlier in women than men. But men showed a much quicker build-up of brain damage than women. In the end, it all evened out.

Knowing about this difference can help doctors and researchers work toward better treatments.

"Talk to your doctor about any memory problems."

Researchers, led by Maria Vittoria Spampinato, MD, at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, looked at the brain scans of people who developed AD. They found 109 patients with mild cognitive impairment that were part of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. It is a large study which tracked brain changes in people over a five year period.

All of the 109 in the study progressed from mild cognitive impairment to AD during the five years. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at their brains.

They looked at the way brain cells that were lost before and after the patient’s condition progressed to AD. An MRI was done when they were diagnosed with AD. MRI was also done one year before the diagnosis and one year after.

They found that women showed more loss of brain cells a year before their AD diagnosis and at the time of their diagnosis than men.

So women initially had more brain cell loss, but men caught up within one year after diagnosis. Men didn’t begin losing brain cells as soon, but they lost them more quickly once it began.

The researchers also found that the areas of the brain that showed brain cell loss were different for men and women.

In a recent press release, the authors said that this may help to better gauge patient’s response to treatments. If doctors and researchers know about gender-specific brain changes, they can better understand how a drug is working.

This information may also be helpful for clinical trials of new drugs and treatments. This study was presented November 26 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). All research presented at academic conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 24, 2012
Last Updated:
March 26, 2013