Author(s): Compton J, van Amelsvoort T, Murphy D
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Abstract There are significant gender differences in human brain disease. For example, females are significantly more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease (AD) than men (even after correcting for differences in life expectancy), and females on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are significantly less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease than women who do not take HRT. However the neurobiological basis to these differences in clinical brain disease were unknown until relatively recently. In this review we will discuss results of studies that show; (i) gender differences in human brain disease are most likely to be explained by gender differences in brain development and ageing; (ii) sex steroids have a significant effect on the brain; (iii) sex steroids are crucial to the development and ageing of brain regions affected in age-related brain diseases (for example AD); (iv) sex steroids interact with neuronal networks and chemical systems at many different levels; (v) sex steroids affect cognitive function in elderly women. Thus, the current literature supports the hypothesis that sex steroids can modulate brain ageing, and this provides a neurobiological explanation for the significantly higher prevalence of AD in females who do not take HRT, and may lead to new treatment approaches for age-related brain disease including AD.
This article was published in Br J Clin Pharmacol
and referenced in Reproductive System & Sexual Disorders: Current Research