How Memory Might Mask Early Alzheimer's

Verbal memory skills in women may mask early Alzheimer's disease signs

(RxWiki News) Women often have stronger verbal memory skills than men — and that could be a bad thing when it comes to detecting Alzheimer's early, a new study found.

This study found that, even when women were displaying early signs of Alzheimer's disease, they performed better than men on tests of verbal memory.

“This is especially important because verbal memory tests are used to diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment, so women may not be diagnosed until they are further along in the disease," said lead study author Erin E. Sundermann, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego, in a press release.

This study looked at more than 1,300 patients — some with Alzheimer's, some with mild cognitive impairment, and some with no thinking or memory problems — who were given verbal memory tests and brain scans to identify early markers of Alzheimer's.

“These results suggest that women are better able to compensate for underlying changes in the brain with their ‘cognitive reserve’ until the disease reaches a more advanced stage,” Dr. Sundermann said.

These researchers said that adjusting memory tests to account for differences in women's and men's verbal memory skills may allow doctors to catch Alzheimer's earlier in women and begin treating it. 

This study was published in the journal Neurology.

This research was funded by various governmental sources and pharmaceutical companies. Study authors disclosed various sources of funding and ties to some pharmaceutical companies.

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Review Date: 
October 9, 2016