Influence of sex differences in interpreting learning and memory within a clinical sample of older adults

Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2020 Jan;27(1):18-39. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2019.1566433. Epub 2019 Jan 20.


Sex is an important factor to consider when evaluating memory with older adults. This present study aimed to examine sex differences in memory within a clinical sample of older adults (N = 1084). Raw learning and recall scores on the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test, Revised (HVLT-R) and Brief Visuospatial Memory Test, Revised (BVMT-R) were compared between sexes within the entire sample and cohorts stratified by age. Within the entire sample, women outperformed men in HVLT-R learning and recall, and there were no sex differences in BVMT-R performance. These sex differences, however, were absent or reversed for those with impaired HVLT-R performance and functional deficits, indicating that women retain an early advantage in verbal memory, which is lost with greater indication of disease severity. These findings indicate that women retain an advantage in verbal learning and memory, at least before significant levels of impairment, within a sample of older adults seen at an outpatient neurology clinic, which may have implications for diagnosing memory disorders.

Keywords: Memory; cognitive impairment; neuropsychology; psychometrics; sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Spatial Memory / physiology*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*