Sex differences in predictors and regional patterns of brain age gap estimates

Nicole Sanford, Ruiyang Ge, Mathilde Antoniades, Amirhossein Modabbernia, Shalaila S Haas, Heather C Whalley, Liisa Galea, Sebastian G Popescu, James H Cole, Sophia Frangou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The brain-age-gap estimate (brainAGE) quantifies the difference between chronological age and age predicted by applying machine-learning models to neuroimaging data and is considered a biomarker of brain health. Understanding sex differences in brainAGE is a significant step toward precision medicine. Global and local brainAGE (G-brainAGE and L-brainAGE, respectively) were computed by applying machine learning algorithms to brain structural magnetic resonance imaging data from 1113 healthy young adults (54.45% females; age range: 22-37 years) participating in the Human Connectome Project. Sex differences were determined in G-brainAGE and L-brainAGE. Random forest regression was used to determine sex-specific associations between G-brainAGE and non-imaging measures pertaining to sociodemographic characteristics and mental, physical, and cognitive functions. L-brainAGE showed sex-specific differences; in females, compared to males, L-brainAGE was higher in the cerebellum and brainstem and lower in the prefrontal cortex and insula. Although sex differences in G-brainAGE were minimal, associations between G-brainAGE and non-imaging measures differed between sexes with the exception of poor sleep quality, which was common to both. While univariate relationships were small, the most important predictor of higher G-brainAGE was self-identification as non-white in males and systolic blood pressure in females. The results demonstrate the value of applying sex-specific analyses and machine learning methods to advance our understanding of sex-related differences in factors that influence the rate of brain aging and provide a foundation for targeted interventions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Early online date5 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jul 2022


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