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Neuroimage. 2004 Jan;21(1):136-43.

In vivo study of acetylcholine esterase in basal forebrain, amygdala, and cortex in mild to moderate Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University Cologne, and Max-Planck Institute for Neurological Research, Cologne, Germany.


It is currently unclear whether impairment of the cholinergic system is present in Alzheimer disease (AD) already at an early stage and to what extent it depends on degeneration of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (nbM). We examined acetylcholine esterase activity in vivo in the nbM, the amygdala, and cerebral neocortex. Measurements were performed in normal controls and in patients with mild to moderate AD with positron emission tomography (PET) and C-11-labeled N-methyl-4-piperidyl-acetate (MP4A) which is a specific substrate of AChE. AChE activity was reduced significantly in amygdala and cerebral cortex. In contrast, AChE activity and glucose metabolism appeared preserved or even increased in the nbM. The results support the concept that neocortical and amygdaloid functional changes of the cholinergic system are an early and leading event in AD, rather than the consequence of neurodegeneration of basal nuclei.

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