University of Hertfordshire

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Sex differences in cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease

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  • WJP-6-54

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)54-65
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Journal publication date22 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2016


Sex differences in neurocognitive abilities have been extensively explored both in the healthy population and in many disorders. Until recently, however, little work has examined such differences in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD). This is despite clear evidence that AD is more prevalent in women, and converging lines of evidence from brain imaging, post-mortem analyses, hormone therapy and genetics suggesting that AD affects men and women differently. We provide an overview of evidence attesting to the poorer cognitive profiles in women than in men at the same stage of AD. Indeed, men significantly outperform women in several cognitive domains, including: Language and semantic abilities, visuospatial abilities and episodic memory. These differences do not appear to be attributable to any differences in age, education, or dementia severity. Reasons posited for this female disadvantage include a reduction of estrogen in postmenopausal women, greater cognitive reserve in men, and the influence of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele. Assessment of cognitive abilities contributes to the diagnosis of the condition and thus, it is crucial to identify the role of sex differences if potentially more accurate diagnoses and treatments are to emerge.


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