Nonhuman primate males more susceptible to age-related cognitive decline than females

February 10, 2005

ATLANTA - When it comes to aging, women may have another reason to be thankful. Research conducted in nonhuman primates at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University shows male nonhuman primates are more susceptible to age-related cognitive decline. The February issue of Behavioral Neuroscience reports this finding, which the researchers say has implications for developing sex-specific therapies to help humans guard against age-related memory loss.

By observing that older male nonhuman primates' spatial memory, which is responsible for recording environmental and spatial-orientation information, declines at a greater rate than that of females, researchers led by Agnès Lacreuse, PhD, assistant research professor, and James Herndon, PhD, associate research professor, both in Yerkes' Division of Neuroscience, concluded a species' sex may influence age-related cognitive decline.

"Given that spatial memory is sensitive to sex differences in humans and in nonhuman primates, we decided to focus our study on determining how cognitive aging differs between the sexes," said Lacreuse. According to Lacreuse, such sex differences have not been studied frequently in humans, and when they have, the data has been inconsistent.

In the study, the researchers observed a large group of young and elderly nonhuman primates performing tasks that measured spatial memory. The researchers presented each animal with an increasing number of identical disks for which the animals had to identify the disk appearing in a new location.

"We saw young adult male nonhuman primates outperform females, a finding consistent with human data that shows men have a higher capacity than women for maintaining or updating spatial information. What's particularly interesting, however, was the finding among older adult nonhuman primates. While we observed cognitive decline in both sexes, the sex difference no longer existed among aged male and female nonhuman primates. This finding suggested the males' spatial abilities declined at a greater rate as they got older than did the females."

The researchers' next steps are to determine what factors may contribute to the differential cognitive decline between males and females. An example is testosterone, which is known to decline in older men and also to affect spatial memory in male humans and rodents. The researchers also hope to conduct imaging studies to examine whether males and females differ in age-related reduction of specific brain regions involved in spatial memory.
-end-
The Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University is one of eight National Primate Research Centers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Yerkes Research Center is a recognized leader for its biomedical and behavioral studies with nonhuman primates, which provide a critical link between research with small laboratory animals and the clinical trials performed in humans. Yerkes researchers are on the forefront of developing vaccines for AIDS and malaria, and treatments for cocaine addiction and Parkinson's disease. Yerkes researchers also are leading programs to better understand the aging process, pioneer organ transplant procedures and provide safer drugs to organ transplant recipients, determine the behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy, prevent early onset vision disorders and shed light on human behavioral evolution.

Emory University Health Sciences Center

Related Aging Articles from Brightsurf:

Surprises in 'active' aging
Aging is a process that affects not only living beings.

Aging-US: 'From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19' by Mikhail V. Blagosklonny
Aging-US recently published ''From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19'' by Blagosklonny et al. which reported that COVID-19 is not deadly early in life, but mortality increases exponentially with age - which is the strongest predictor of mortality.

Understanding the effect of aging on the genome
EPFL scientists have measured the molecular footprint that aging leaves on various mouse and human tissues.

Muscle aging: Stronger for longer
With life expectancy increasing, age-related diseases are also on the rise, including sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass due to aging.

Aging memories may not be 'worse, 'just 'different'
A study from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences adds nuance to the idea that an aging memory is a poor one and finds a potential correlation between the way people process the boundaries of events and episodic memory.

A new biomarker for the aging brain
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR) in Japan have identified changes in the aging brain related to blood circulation.

Scientists invented an aging vaccine
A new way to prevent autoimmune diseases associated with aging like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease was described in the article.

The first roadmap for ovarian aging
Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear.

Researchers discover new cause of cell aging
New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works.

Deep Aging Clocks: The emergence of AI-based biomarkers of aging and longevity
The advent of deep biomarkers of aging, longevity and mortality presents a range of non-obvious applications.

Read More: Aging News and Aging Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.