Sex and gender differences in cognitive and brain reserve: Implications for Alzheimer's disease in women

Elsevier, Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, Volume 60, January 2021
Authors: 
Subramaniapillai S., Almey A., Natasha Rajah M., Einstein G.

Women represent ⅔ of the cases of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Current research has focused on differential risks to explain higher rates of AD in women. However, factors that reduce risk for AD, like cognitive/brain reserve, are less well explored. We asked: what is known about sex and gender differences in how reserve mitigates risk for AD? We conducted a narrative review of the literature, with keywords: “sex/gender differences”, “cognitive/brain reserve”, “Alzheimer's Disease”, and the following cognitive reserve contributors: “education”, “IQ”, “occupation”, “cognitive stimulation”, “bilingualism”, “socioeconomic status”, “physical activity”, “social support”. Sixteen papers disaggregated their data by sex. Those papers observed sex and gender differences in reserve contributors. There is also evidence that greater reserve may be more beneficial in lowering AD risk in women, although more research is needed. We discuss how traditional reserve contributors are gendered and may not capture factors that support cognition in aging women.