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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2003 Sep;18(Suppl 1):S15-21.

Glutamatergic systems in Alzheimer's disease.

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Centre for Neuroscience Research, King's College London, London, UK.


Glutamate is the major transmitter of the brain and is involved in all aspects of cognitive function since it is the transmitter of cortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurones. Furthermore, glutamate and glutamate receptors are involved in long-term potentiation, a process believed to underlie learning and memory. Histological studies indicate loss of pyramidal neurones and their synapses in Alzheimer's disease (AD), this together with biochemical evidence suggests presynaptic (and postsynaptic) glutamatergic hypoactivity. This represents a 'double blow' as the activity of glutamatergic neurones is heavily influenced by the cholinergic system, which is also dysfunctional in AD. The clinical relevance of these changes is emphasised because glutamatergic and cholinergic dysfunction are strong correlates of cognitive decline in AD. The mechanism by which glutamatergic (and cholinergic) cells die is likely to be a combination of necrosis and apoptosis caused by a range of factors which include tangle formation and the effects of too much and too little glutamatergic neurotransmission.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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