Gender/Sex Differences in the Association of Mild Behavioral Impairment with Cognitive Aging

Katrin Wolfova, Byron Creese, Dag Aarsland, Zahinoor Ismail, Anne Corbett, Clive Ballard, Adam Hampshire, Pavla Cermakova*, Mielke Michelle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: While the gender/sex differences in neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia population are well described, gender/sex differences in mild behavioral impairment (MBI) in dementia-free populations and the relationship to cognitive performance and to subsequent cognitive decline have not been studied. Objective: We aimed to explore gender/sex differences in the association of MBI with the level of cognitive performance and its rate of decline in a dementia-free cohort. Methods: We studied 8,181 older adults enrolled in the online PROTECT UK Study. MBI was assessed using the MBI Checklist and cognition was measured by digit span, paired associate learning, spatial working memory, and verbal reasoning. Statistical analysis was conducted using linear regression models and linear mixed-effects models. Results: Out of 8,181 individuals (median age 63 years, 73% females), 11% of females and 14% of males had MBI syndrome. Females exhibited less often symptoms of decreased motivation (45% versus 36% in males), impulse dyscontrol (40% versus 44% in males; p = 0.001) and social inappropriateness (12% versus 15%; p < 0.001), while they showed more often symptoms of emotional dysregulation (45% versus 36%; p < 0.001). The associations of MBI domains with some measures of cognitive performance and decline were stronger in males than females, with the exception of the association of emotional dysregulation with the rate of cognitive decline in verbal reasoning, which was present exclusively in females. Conclusion: MBI may influence cognition to a greater extent in males than in females. We propose that predictors and biomarkers of dementia should consider gender/sex as an effect modifier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-355
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Behavioral symptoms
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • gender differences
  • sex differences


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