Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Women exhibit stronger verbal memory in early Alzheimer's

They say men are from Mars, women are from Venus. When it comes to the physical attributes and emotional well-being, there are a lot of differences. There is a big distinction between males and females. Apparently, this includes the recent discovery related to Alzheimer's.

It appears that during the early phase of Alzheimer's, men might not be able to hold on to their verbal memory skills compared to women, according to the journal Neurology.

In the US, 5.3 million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease; 3.1 million are composed of women. The early signs of the disorder include problems with memory and memory impairments as the disease develops.

Women are better in terms of verbal memory than men, research states. Women tend to do well in recalling words and language skills.

Dr. Erin E. Sundermann, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY, and colleagues set up a study to identify if this difference exists. They said, "A true aMCI diagnosis may be delayed more often in women than men because the female advantage in verbal memory may mask underlying neurodegeneration, particularly in earlier disease stages."

They conducted a study with 235 participants, either with Alzheimer's or other type of dementia, 694 participants diagnosed with aMCI and 379 individuals with no cognitive disease.

The subjects participated and went through brain imaging. They also completed the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) which helps assess verbal memory.

The participants' memory test results were compared to the size of their hippocampus (The region of the brain that manages verbal memory and the one that is affected in the onset of Alzheimer's.)

The memory tests results show that women did well compared to men, based on the minimal to moderate levels of hippocampal shrinkage. For the group with aMCI with minimal to moderate hippocampal shrinkage, women still performed well on verbal tests compared to men.

With everything taken into account, the scientists trust that the women are at an advantage over men.

Dr. Sundermann states, "One way to interpret the results is that because women have better verbal memory skills than men throughout life, women have a buffer of protection against loss of verbal memory before the effects of Alzheimer's disease kick in."

The researchers believe that their findings are relevant to the diagnosis of the disease:

"If replicated, our findings suggest the need to evaluate whether diagnosis of aMCI is made at a later disease stage in women compared to men because this sex-specific advantage in verbal memory masks underlying neurodegeneration. If so, then sex-based norms in clinical memory tests might improve diagnostic accuracy in women."