Female advantage in verbal memory may mask early stages of Alzheimer's

New research shows that women are better at retaining memory for words and verbal items, not only during normal aging but also during early stage dementia.

Research presented at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) today shows that women are better at retaining memory for words and verbal items, not only during normal aging but also during early stage dementia.

As verbal memory tests – such as remembering word lists and stories – are often used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers sought to understand the differences between male and female verbal memory and brain aging so as to improve diagnoses.

Dr Tim Shakespeare, Research Information Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, says:

'Women are disproportionately affected by dementia globally and 65% in the UK are female. 

'Women tend to have a better memory for things like lists and short stories – known as verbal memory - throughout their lives. This study suggests that this stronger recall in women may mask early symptoms of dementia.

'Taking this into consideration could help identify dementia early on, so women don’t slip through the dementia diagnosis net.

'Research suggests that when we have new treatments, they will be more effective in the early stages. A timely diagnosis also allows the person access to vital care and support. Which is why we have long campaigned for everyone to have equal access to a diagnosis, regardless of their gender race, age or postcode, and we will continue to build on our work with the Government to make sure this happens.'

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