FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Women’s Brain Project and Framingham Heart Study Brain Aging Program Uncover Gender Differences in Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
[Zurich, 27th October 2023] – The Women’s Brain Project (WBP), a pioneering organisation dedicated to exploring sex and gender characteristics in brain and mental diseases, has partnered with Framingham Heart Study Brain Aging Program (FHS-BAP) at Boston University to reveal an essential aspect of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) diagnosis. Their groundbreaking research demonstrates that sex differences in neuropsychological (NP) test performance may play a critical role in the detection of AD in its preclinical stages. This new study builds on prior work showing sex-specific differences in gender-specific brain function, solidifying their position at the forefront of this critical field of research.
The study, which involved 1787 men and 2228 women without dementia at baseline and utilised neuropsychological assessment data analysed by machine learning, has delivered remarkable insights into how men and women differ in neuropsychological test performance. By considering both standard test scores and Boston Process Approach measures from Framingham Heart Study (FHS) participants, the researchers employed linear regression, Cox proportional hazards and eXtreme Gradient Boosting models to discern these sex-specific distinctions. Overall, this study showed the significant differences in neuropsychological test scores between men and women. A notable finding was that the Boston Naming Test, which assesses language abilities, is proving to be more sensitive in detecting early cognitive changes in women than in men.
Dr Ting Fang Alvin, Data Core Co-lead at FHS-BAP and Dr. Rhoda Au, Director of Neuropsychology for the FHS, emphasize, “By exploring all facets of neuropsychological assessment, we can pave the way for a future where sex-specific predictive models can lead us closer to preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and optimizing cognitive well-being for every individual.”
In women, lower scores in specific memory tests correlated with a higher risk of AD, highlighting the importance of tailoring assessments based on gender.
Dr Antonella Santuccione Chadha, pro bono CEO at WBP underscores the significance of these results, stating, “These findings highlight the urgency of understanding not only the pathophysiological difference in Alzheimer’s disease between men and women but most importantly the impact of those on clinical read out measurements such as we can optimise clinical development. The “one size fits all” approach common in medicine does not best serve Alzheimer’s patients.”
This collaboration between the Women’s Brain Project and Framingham Heart Study Brain Aging Program builds on previous studies showing the intricacies of sex- and gender-specific brain function, solidifying their position at the forefront of this critical field of research.
Since its establishment in 2017, the Women’s Brain Project has actively engaged in multiple partnerships with research labs. Their combined efforts have resulted in a substantial body of peer-reviewed articles, totalling 60 plus, which dive deep into the realm of sex-specific differences in brain function. The Women’s Brain Project remains committed to its overarching mission of establishing an institute dedicated to advancing research and raising awareness in this vital area.
Link to the publication: https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alz.13500
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