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Neurology. 1992 Aug;42(8):1578-85.

N-acetyl-L-aspartate and other amino acid metabolites in Alzheimer's disease brain: a preliminary proton nuclear magnetic resonance study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA.


We used proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in this preliminary study of perchloric acid extracts of 12 Alzheimer's disease (AD) and five control brain samples to measure the relative levels of taurine, aspartate, glutamine, glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and the putative neuronal marker, N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA). We found no significant changes in taurine, aspartate, or glutamine. NAA was lower in AD compared with control, and this decrease correlated with the number of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in adjacent tissue sections. GABA levels also were lower in AD brain. Glutamate levels were greater in AD than control and showed a close, inverse correlation with NAA levels. These findings suggest that the decrease in NAA reflects neuronal loss and that remaining neurons could be exposed to a relative excess of glutamate and a relative lack of GABA. If present in the neurotransmitter pool, this imbalance could result in neurotoxic cell damage. This hypothesis is further supported by in vitro and in vivo phosphorus 31 nuclear magnetic resonance findings.

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