Women perform differently than men on verbal memory tests

Verbal memory tests are a common tool for discovering mild cognitive impairment, but such tests may miss early symptoms in women, according to a study published in Neurology journal.

Women tend to perform better than men on verbal memory tests at any age, and their performance may be masking early signs of mild decline. The loss of verbal skills is a hallmark sign of mild cognitive impairment, but women have higher verbal scores than their male counterparts at the same level of early brain dysfunction, researchers found.

Early detection is vital, since research shows early intervention can extend quality of life and time frame between mild cognitive impairment and full-blown dementia. The differences between men and women perform “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,” Erin E. Sundermann, PhD, professor at the University of California – San Diego, lead author on the study tells Medical News Today.

In addition, women’s brains may be better able to compensate for the loss of skills, delaying Alzheimer’s development until later, compared to the progression in men.

Sundermann’s research joins a growing body of research that explores the impacts of gender, race, ethnicity and other factors on the development of dementia.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia