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New Study Finds Women Have Superior Memories, 40 Percent of Seniors Suffer Depression

By Orange County Register

July 27, 2018

Mom always said my sisters had the best memories in the family and according to the latest science it turns out she was right.

Sorry guys, but according to renowned brain specialist Dr. William Shankle and a host of other scientists, 95 percent of women have better short-term memory than men.

And it’s not just a little bit better.

The gap between women and men over age 30 – when brains and hormonal changes are fully developed – is a whopping 21 percent.

That’s like, uh, the difference between, um, knowing where you put your keys and, hang on, forgetting.

“It’s an amazing separation,” Shankle tells me about the difference between males and females.

Then the good doctor adds, “It’s probably better to listen to you wife.”

Right. And thanks for that.

Wait. It gets worse.

Long-term memory gets its information from short-term memory so men are doubly in doubt when it comes to recalling details from past events.

The news surfaced at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago, July 22-26.

On a more sobering note, Shankle and his team also report that as many as 40 percent of seniors suffer from depression.

More on that in a moment.

Gender memory

Even my wife was skeptical about the study finding that women have superior memory than men.

Yet the science is solid and backed by the Department of Cognitive Sciences at UC Irvine, the Medical Care Corporation in Newport Beach, Shankle’s own clinic and the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.

Called “Gender Differences in Memory Across the Human Lifespan,” the massive study involved 681,428 subjects, aged 15 to 110.

Understand, there are two basic types of memory.

One is called “associative memory.” That encompasses things such as remembering the other day you saw something concrete, like a cat or dog.

The other memory is called “context-free memory.” Shankle explains it as recalling isolated facts, such as what you did last Sunday evening.

“It’s harder to pull things up out of the blue,” Shankle explains.

“I don’t remember details at all,” Shankle admits. “I remember the gist. But I don’t remember the specifics.

“My spouse remembers if somethings was, say, in August 2016,” he said. “She also often knows the exact date.”

I wonder about the geopolitical implications of male-female memory.

Without getting into current events and choosing his words carefully, Shankle allows, “In politics and jobs and work, on the average, it’s more reliable to trust a woman’s recall.”

A little anecdote: While writing a book about growing up in the American intelligence community, I interviewed my father for five days and emerged with a pile of wonky facts already in books.

I allowed for two days to interview mom. Her details about breakfast at Bobby Kennedy’s house and dinner with John Steinbeck were gold.

I should have left more time for mom.

Depression and Alzheimer’s

To be sure, Shankle’s study, “Addressing Depression in Seniors,” which concluded 40 percent of seniors have depression, is deeply troubling.

But first a little good news.

With treatment, only 12 percent of the seniors still suffered from depression a year later.

Yet the pressing issue remains that for people over the age of 50, depression can have long-term effects.

Simply put, Shankle warns, “Depression is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.”

The problem is depression can result in precious nerve cell damage and over time that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

“When you feel depressed, you start to become hopeless and pessimistic,” Shankle explains. “You feel your whole world is declining.”

Co-authored by members of the Orange County Vital Brain Aging Program at the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag hospital, the study reports, “Depression continues to be a major issue in the aging community, and it is usually undetected and untreated.

“Depression also leads to isolation, worsening of existing medical conditions and poor self-care,” the study says. “Better approaches are urgently needed to identify at-risk seniors, and provide education and resources to manage risk.”

Allow me to repeat that. Better approaches are urgently needed for our aging population.

Additionally, one of the key things to emerge from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference was agreement from a series of studies that risk for Alzheimer’s can actually be curtailed.

Shankle goes so far as to call it the most significant aspect of the conference.

I’ve written about the tests and Shankle’s work at Hoag Neurosciences Institute before, and Shankle again emphasizes the conference showed agreement across a diverse series of studies.

With common tests, Shankle notes, “We can identify people and we can prevent the dementia.”

One immediate result at the conference was the creation of “Best Clinical Practice Guidelines.”

They include assessing anyone who self-reports or who has a care partner who observes cognitive, behavioral or functional changes.

“Concerns should not be dismissed as ‘normal aging,’” the guidelines say, “without a proper assessment.”

The week-long conference concluded that diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia “in a timely manner will broaden patient autonomy at earlier stages, allow for early intervention and may ultimately lower healthcare costs.”

For more on getting a low-cost test: OCBrain.org.

To view the original Orange County Register article, please click here.