Women suffering from Alzheimer's deteriorate more rapidly than men, even when both are apparently at the same stage of the disease, finds a study.
Women sufferers were found to show greater loss of their mental faculties than men, which suggests that men's brains are better at coping with the ravages of the disease.
Men with Alzheimer's consistently outperformed women sufferers in detailed tests of memory and even verbal ability - in which, among healthy people, women normally have the advantage.
A review of data from 15 studies by researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, discovered that men with Alzheimer's consistently and significantly outperformed women with the disease across five cognitive areas examined in detailed tests.
These included tests of episodic memory, where people recall events from the past, and semantic memory involving factual information.
But a 'striking' finding was the verbal skills of women with Alzheimer's are worse compared with men who appear to be at the same disease stage.
"Unlike mental decline associated with normal aging, something about Alzheimer's specifically disadvantages women," said Keith Laws, a professor of psychology who led the analysis.
There could be a hormonal explanation, he said, because women lose oestrogen supplies after the menopause, which play a key role in the brain.
"Men's cognitive reserve appears to compensate for the disease process. Other research using scans shows men can have brains that are badly damaged yet their skills are not as impaired as they should be.
"For whatever reason, and it's not about greater intellect, men are better able to stave off the effects for longer," he added.