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 Agns 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. T
Contact: Kelly Thompson
Emory University Health Sciences Center