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Sex differences in brain atrophy in dementia with Lewy bodies

Publication at Second Faculty of Medicine |


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Sex is an important contributing factor to neuroimaging phenotypes in brain disorders. However, little is known about the contribution of sex differences to the neurodegeneration in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

We investigated sex differences in probable DLB patients by using both visual rating scales of lobar atrophy and automated estimations of regional atrophy. METHODS: We included 442 probable DLB patients from the European-DLB consortium and the Mayo Clinic who have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data available.

We assessed sex differences and the sex-by-age interaction in two largely independent samples through visual rating scales of lobar atrophy (n = 333; mean age 73 +- 8 years, 62% males) and automated regional estimations of gray matter (GM) volume and mean cortical thickness (CTh) (n = 165; mean age 69 +- 9 years, 72% males). We used binary logistic regression and ANOVA for statistical analysis.

RESULTS: We found a statistically significantly higher likelihood of frontal atrophy measured by the global cortical atrophy-frontal subscale (GCA-F) in males (40% of males had an abnormal GCA-F score versus 29% of females, P-value = 0.006). Using automated estimations, we found smaller GM volumes in 6 cortical regions in males compared with females, as well as smaller GM volume in the entorhinal cortex and thinner olfactory cortices in females, compared with males.

The sex-by-age interaction showed statistically significant results in 6 cortical volumes and 7 mean CTh estimations (P-value <= 0.05), accentuated in the right middle frontal gyrus (FDR-adjusted P-value = 0.047). These cross-sectional interactions indicated that while females have statistically significantly less atrophy than males at younger ages, differences become non-significant at older ages, with females showing the same level of atrophy than males around the age of 75.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates sex differences on brain atrophy in probable DLB. While male DLB patients have a more widespread pattern of cortical atrophy at younger ages, these sex differences tend to disappear with increasing age.

Longitudinal studies will help establish these cross-sectional findings and inform on sex and age considerations to the use of MRI in clinical routine, as the field moves towards precision medicine.